National Communications Commission (NCC) Chairwoman Nicole Chan (詹婷怡) yesterday faced severe criticism from lawmakers, who said that the commission has failed to contain the spread of misinformation.
Lawmakers at the Legislative Yuan’s Transportation Committee yesterday focused on the commission’s handling of fake news, after Premier Su Tseng-chan (蘇貞昌) on Sunday accused the NCC of doing nothing about the issue.
The Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) not only authorizes the NCC to impose fines of NT$200,000 to NT$2 million (US$6,487 to US$64,868) on broadcasters that fail to verify facts and as a result hurt the public interest, but also to suspend the broadcast of programs or advertisements, or take rectification measures, Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) legislators Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清), Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) and Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
However, except fines, the commission has yet to use other measures permitted by the law to curb the dissemination of misinformation, they said.
So far, only TV news stations Eastern Broadcasting (東森電視) and CTiTV (中天電視) have each been fined NT$200,000 for failing to adhere to the fact-checking principles contained in the act, they said.
A false report by CTiTV that said farmers had dumped 1,200 tonnes of pomeloes into the Zengwen Reservoir (曾文水庫) last year because of low retail prices for the fruit was intended to change the outcome of Saturday’s legislative by-elections and hurt democracy, they said.
Chan should consider stepping down, as the premier, the Legislative Yuan and the public have lost trust in the commission’s ability to address misinformation, Lin said.
Chan said that all measures are designed to enhance the credibility of media, whether they are self-disciplinary mechanisms or regulations set by the authorities.
However, many cases have shown that broadcast media’s self-disciplinary mechanisms fail to produce the intended results, she said.
The commission plans to implement a series of measures to curb the dissemination of fake news by broadcast media, including asking them to incorporate fact-checking mechanisms into business plans, Chan said.
That does not mean that the NCC would interfere in the production of content, but it would allow the commission to check the procedures that TV stations have instituted to safeguard the quality of their content, she said.
The NCC’s content review committee, made up of independent experts from different academic disciplines, would convene more frequently than before to handle disputed broadcast content, Chan said.
Aside from asking broadcast media to have content reviewed by their own ethics committees, TV station managers would be asked to brief NCC commissioners in person on how certain content was produced if it receives complaints, she said.
Asked about Su’s comments, Chan said that the commission convenes and announces its rulings on different cases every week, and people can decide for themselves whether it is doing its job.
The commission would humbly accept all criticism from all parties, she said.
However, it already warned the Cabinet about the malicious effects on democratic values of misinformation and proposed possible solutions during a meeting in 2017, and the Cabinet ordered that all government departments work together to curb the spread of misinformation.
Meanwhile, former NCC chairwoman Su Herng (蘇蘅) said that Su’s top-down condemnation of the commission exposed his ignorance about the independence of the agency and was meant to pressure the NCC into doing what he said.
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