Academics yesterday urged the Taipei Administrative Court to reject the Want Want China Times Group’s appeal of the conditional approval of its acquisition of cable television services, citing concerns about media concentration.
With three suspension clauses and 25 additional clauses, the National Communications Commission (NCC) on July 25 conditionally approved the group’s NT$76 billion (US$2.61 billion) acquisition of cable TV services owned by China Network Systems, a deal that many fear would create a media monopoly.
The Want Want China Times Group subsequently appealed the case, claiming the clauses are illegal and demanding they be removed.
“We call for the administrative court to uphold the conditional approval and urge the NCC to abide by its mission statement and review the deal on the grounds of protection of the public interest,” Taiwan Democracy Watch (TDW) president Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群), who was representing an alliance of TDW, the Taiwan Law Society and the Taipei Society, told a press conference.
The controversial deal raises fears of media concentration that could jeopardize freedom of speech, Hsu said, adding that it had taken Taiwan a long time to have media outlets free from government interference that no one could accept the emergence of interference from business conglomerates.
Chiu Wen-tsun (邱文聰), a professor representing the Taipei Society, expressed his concern to NCC Chairman Howard Shyr (石世豪), whose comments in a report to the legislature on Thursday suggested that the commission may approve the deal.
In the report, Shyr cited the Jasmine Revolution in North Africa, saying media concentration would be a non-issue in the age of the Internet and underlined the importance of media mergers for improving Taiwanese media’s global competitiveness amid digital convergence.
Those comments were “ridiculously incorrect,” Chiu said, as North Africans had to resort to social media to voice their opposition precisely because mainstream media had been controlled by the government. He added that media outlets are different from, for example, airline companies, in that “larger is not always better.”
Academia Sinica assistant research professor Su Yen-tu (蘇彥圖) the main author of the academics’ statement, said the groups are concerned that the NCC, as the defendant in the case, would not do its best to win the appeal, which was why they had written their opinion on the case.
As a reminder to the court and the NCC, Su said deliberations on media mergers should be about more than market share and should also take into account the political and economic influences wielded on a media outlet.