The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday expressed its strong opposition to the proposed acquisition of Next Media Group by a consortium, saying the deal could be a “major catastrophe for Taiwan’s democracy” as it would allow China to influence Taiwanese media and jeopardize freedom of speech.
“As a political party that has always pursued democracy in Taiwan, we will not allow the situation to deteriorate and our determination to stop the deal should not be underestimated,” DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told a press conference.
Formosa Plastics Group chairman William Wong (王文淵), Chinatrust Charity Foundation chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr (辜仲諒) and Want Want China Times Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) have launched a bid to buy the Next Media businesses for NT$17.5 billion (US$601.2 million).
Koo, Wong and Tsai were reportedly set to take stakes of 34 percent, 34 percent and 32 percent respectively in the media group, local media reports said on Sunday.
Taiwan-born Tsai, a business tycoon in working China, already controls various media businesses in Taiwan and is the most controversial investor in the deal.
In a four-point statement, Su demanded that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) express his views and position on the controversial case, in which Chinese investment and influence were suspected to be involved, to reduce prevalent doubts on his position.
Second, government agencies, including the Fair Trade Commission, the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC), the National Communications Commission, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Justice, should all assume their responsibility, Su said.
Third, the DPP will collaborate with civic groups about possible measures to oppose the acquisition, Su said.
And fourth, the party urged the public and civic groups to safeguard Taiwan’s democracy through collective efforts and determination, he said.
Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) president Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) said on the sidelines of the press conference that the ATJ had sent out letters of complaint to five agencies, warning the agencies that the deal may violate regulations concerning the separation of the financial sector and media, fair competition, freedom of speech and media monopoly.
Speaking at a separate press conference, Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) called on government agencies to block the deal.
The involvement of the Chinatrust Group of financial companies could create a “contagion risk” which could jeopardize the financial stability of the member companies, while the involvement of Want Want China Times Group, which already owns several media outlets, could create a media monopoly, Hsu said.
Labor unions representing workers at Next Media Group’s businesses in Taiwan had requested that the acquisition of the media outlets be made transparent to ease growing anxiety among employees.
They were reportedly planning a strike against the deal and the group’s disregard of employees’ rights and interests.
Meanwhile, DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) blasted the FSC’s “double standards” in its qualification review of Koo, who was asked to reduce his stake to 20 percent because of his position in Chinatrust Group, and Tsai.
Citing the Insurance Act (保險法). Kuan added that Tsai, the majority shareholder of Want Want Union Insurance Co, should also be prohibited from investing in other industries.