FTC vows to probe Next Media deal amid rising concern

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Nov 22, 2012 - Page 3

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday promised to take a proactive approach to the sale of Next Media Group’s Taiwanese outlets, as representatives from the Alliance Against Media Monopoly and the Association of Taiwan Journalists voiced concern that the deal may lead to a monopoly.

“We’ve exchanged views with FTC spokesman Sun Li-chun (孫立群) on issues such as media monopolies, diversity in expression and freedom of the press,” Chang Chin-hwa (張錦華), a professor at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Journalism and a representative of the alliance, told media after a closed-door meeting with Sun.

“We urge the commission to hold public hearings to listen to different opinions before it probes the sale of Next Media’s outlets,” Chang said.

She added that if the consortium comprised of Want Want China Times Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), Chinatrust Charity Foundation chairman Jeffery Koo Jr (辜仲諒) and Formosa Plastics Group chairman William Wong (王文淵) buys the Next Media Group, “it could pose a threat to the diversity and freedom of the press, as well as create a media giant that will limit competition in the media.”

Association of Taiwan Journalists president Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) said that if it merged with the largest cable television service provider, China Network Systems, Tsai’s Want Want China Times Group would be the biggest media group in the country.

“The Want Want China Times Group already controls 20 percent of the nation’s news channels, nearly 30 percent of cable television services and 12 percent of the newspaper and Internet news services,” Chen said. “If it merges with Next Media, it will become a monopolistic monster.”

In response, Sun said the commission would consider the groups’ opinions carefully.

“We’re also concerned with the monopoly issue, thus we will hold public hearings on the matter to listen to the people,” Sun said. “The FTC is seeking to resolve the issue in a balanced way and in accordance with the law.”