Media reform activists and academics yesterday filed a complaint with the National Communications Commission (NCC), asking it to investigate local TV channel CtiTV’s handling of reports on allegations that Academia Sinica research fellow Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) had paid students to take part in a protest.
The petition said the CtiTV had violated media regulations by falsely accusing Huang of paying students to protest against the Want Want China Times Group’s acquisition of cable television services owned by China Network Systems.
“From July 26 to July 29, CtiTV maliciously twisted facts, falsely accused Huang of paying students to take part in a protest and tried to hide that it had done so,” Campaign for Media Reform convener Lin Li-yun (林麗雲) said. “The reports have misled the audience, damaged its right to know the facts and harmed professionalism in news reporting and social justice.”
“When a news media outlet can fabricate news and even use those fabrications to attack those holding different opinions, it is a tragedy for Taiwanese society,” said Chang Chin-hwa (張錦華), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Journalism.
The petition was endorsed by nearly 2,000 individuals, including former NCC Commissioner Chung Chi-hui (鍾起惠).
Huang, currently in the US as a Fulbright scholar, also issued a statement to both CtiTV and NCC. Noting that CtiTV accused of him fleeing to the US to avoid questioning about his role in the student protest, Huang said CtiTV must issue a public apology at the same broadcast time as erroneous reports were aired and the apology should be delivered at the same length.
Should the commission think that it need to verify the facts of the violation, they should launch an administrative investigation over it, Huang said, adding the commission should penalize CtiTV because the station has already violated several articles in the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) by airing such an unfounded report, he said.
“Some members serving on CtiTV’s ethics committee had already indicated that there was nothing they could do about the television station’s behavior over the past few months; the self-disciplinary mechanism in the institution has completely collapsed,” he said.
Huang Chin-yi (黃金益), director of the commission’s Radio and Television Administration Department, said the right to request a correction of news coverage belongs to the persons affected by the news, adding the commission has no way to verify the truthfulness of any news event.
“The persons [affected by the news] can ask the television station to correct the content within 20 days upon receipt of the request,” he said. “Should the television station refuse to correct its report, it must state the reasons for not doing so. We need to hear from both sides. We cannot intervene based on the statement from one side.”
He added that CtiTV’s general manager and his staff had on Tuesday briefed the commission on the operations of its ethics committee and the guidelines governing the reporting of news related to the Want Want China Times Group.
“It [CtiTV] confirmed that three ethics committee members have resigned,” Huang Chin-yi added, saying CtiTV has agreed to submit supplementary information on the two items by tomorrow.
Huang Chin-yi said commissioners may consider the fact that three members on the CtiTV’s ethics committee had resigned, but added it is not the main criteria that the commission would use to evaluate operations of the ethics committee.
Jason Ho (何吉森) said both Huang Kuo-chang and Want Want China Times have stuck to their statements, but there was no new evidence to prove that either one of them was wrong.
The NCC could only handle the request when more concrete evidence appears, he said.
This story has been amended since it was first published.