Rules barring political parties, the government and the military from investing in the media are unlikely to be lifted this year, with the National Communications Commission (NCC) earlier this week saying that the three relevant media laws would not be amended until after it publishes a communication policy white paper next year.
The announcement was a major setback for advocates for amendments, who have argued that restrictions on investment have kept the media from attracting funding, causing media to file frivolous lawsuits against the government and sabotage deals forged by competitors.
Under current regulations, the government, political parties and the military are not allowed to own any stake in media.
However, earlier this year, NCC commissioners reportedly reached a consensus on relaxing the regulations and proposed to allow such actors to hold indirect stakes of up to 5 percent in media firms.
A special clause was to be passed to regulate Chunghwa Telecom’s multimedia-on-demand (MOD) service, which is about one-third owned by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.
Under the proposed amendment, the nation’s largest telecom would be allowed to have its own channels, produce programs and films, and sell different channel packages to subscribers.
The commission can no longer oversee the media using a top-down approach, as that would not help it address the challenges of the Internet era, NCC Commissioner Jason Ho (何吉森) said.
The commission plans to publish a communication policy green paper next month, Ho said, adding that it would list important issues facing the industry in the next five to 10 years.
The purpose of publishing a green paper is to generate public discussion on issues before the government turns some of the views expressed into policy, Ho said.
The commission has experienced legislative setbacks when it failed to gain public consensus on proposed policies, he added.
The commission is to spend two to three months soliciting views from the public on the issues listed in the green paper, Ho said, adding that it would spend two more months studying comments and formulating policy proposals, which would be published in the white paper.
The white paper is to be published at the end of the year or early next year, Ho said, adding that the commission would use it as a guide when drafting changes to the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法), Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) and Cable Radio and Television Act (有線廣播電視法).
The paper would discuss whether and how restrictions placed on media investment should be lifted, implementation of tiered-pricing plans for cable TV services, division of profits between cable operators and channel operators, and issues related to must-carry channels for cable networks, he said.
The green paper would also discuss whether over-the-top operators should be governed by the same regulations as broadcast media and cable systems, Ho said.
Industry experts said that the government might not be planning to address the investment restrictions anytime soon with an eye toward the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections and the January 2020 presidential election.
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