The National Communications Commission (NCC) is legally authorized to regulate broadcast media that deviate from its code of conduct, it said yesterday, after it launched an administrative probe into CTi TV News over accusations that it produced fake news.
The TV station in a program aired on Friday last week interviewed a pomelo farmer, who claimed that the price of pomeloes was so low last year that 2 million catties (1.2 million kilograms) of pomelos were dumped into the Zengwen Reservoir (曾文水庫).
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Agriculture and Food Agency have dismissed the farmer’s allegation as untrue.
Photo: Chen Kuan-pei, Taipei Times
The NCC on Wednesday said that it had received complaints about the item and asked the TV station to explain how it had handled the matter.
In accordance with the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法), the commission would also convene a meeting of independent experts to review the program’s content, it said..
NCC commissioners would take the experts’ conclusions into consideration before deciding if the station should be disciplined, the commission said.
The food agency yesterday said that the Council of Agriculture on Wednesday sent a letter to the TV station requesting that it make a correction within 20 days.
The farmer interviewed did not throw away the pomeloes he harvested last year, the agency said, adding that all of the harvest was sold, as it was of good quality.
The council would take further legal action if a correction is not made, the agency said, asking the media not to mislead the public with false content and the public to support farmers by purchasing their produce.
In an op-ed published by the Chinese-language China Times, Taipei City Councilor Lee Ming-hsien (李明賢) accused the commission of being a “political hitman” for the Democratic Progressive Party government.
“CTi TV News is being investigated by the NCC for simply interviewing farmers about the imbalance in supply and demand of pomeloes, which has undoubtedly dealt a great blow to the freedom of speech in this nation,” said Lee, a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) member.
“The move has also hurt democracy in Taiwan, because it shows that the ruling party would use any means possible to salvage its low approval ratings, even if it means that it has to use government authority to discipline the media,” Lee added.
On March 1, CTi TV News reported that Representative to Singapore Francis Liang (梁國新) monitored Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) visit to the city-state at the end of last month and reported his whereabouts back to Taipei, citing a text message sent by Liang as evidence.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested against the report, saying that the TV station did not verify the information with Liang before reporting it.
The commission has officially demanded that CTi TV News offer an official explanation on the March 1 report, NCC spokesperson Wong Po-tsung (翁柏宗) said, adding that it had yet to receive any response from the station.
The older case would also be reviewed by the committee of independent experts, the commission said.
The NCC also said it sent general principles for the verification of information by broadcast media sent to TV stations and broadcasting associations on Dec. 5 last year.
The commission has already used the rules to handle several cases, it said.
The Satellite Television Broadcasting Association and the Association of Terrestrial Television Networks incorporated the guidelines in their codes of conduct on Jan. 16 and Jan. 30 respectively, the NCC said.
On Feb. 18, the commission met with representatives from civic groups, broadcast associations and TV news stations, and all parties agreed that verification of facts and fair coverage are the key to enhancing the quality of TV news, it said.
“However, over the past six months, the public has begun to question if the broadcast media have thoroughly followed the procedures to verify the information, so all news channels should review their operations,” the commission said.
Additional reporting by Chien Hui-ju and Sherry Hsiao
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