NCC says its conditions for Want Want deal stand

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 - Page 3

National Communications Commission (NCC) Chairman Howard Shyr (石世豪) yesterday said the commission’s ruling on Want Want China Times Group’s purchase of cable TV services owned by China Network Systems (CNS) remain unchanged and that the transaction would not take effect until the group fulfilled each and every requirement issued by the commission.

Shyr made the comments during a review at the legislature’s Transportation Committee of how Want Want China Times Group plans to fulfill the requirements.

The preconditions include that group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) and his family members, as well as his business associates in the deal, must completely dissociate themselves from the operation of CtiTV News. In addition, China Television’s (CTV) digital news channel must be turned into a non-news channel. As a TV network, CTV must have an independent editorial system as well.

“The commission has already ruled on the case [Want Want-CNS deal] and the ruling has already been delivered [Want Want],” Shyr said. “Both the group and the commission are bound by the ruling.”

Shyr confirmed that the group has already filed an administrative lawsuit against the commission over these requirements.

Despite the pending lawsuit, the group still needs to fulfill these requirements for the transaction to take effect, he said.

Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) asked if the Tsai family could place the shares they own in CTiTV News under a third-party trustee to meet the commission’s requirement. Shyr said the method may only change the nominal ownership of the asset, adding that the commission will determine if Tsai has indeed cut off his relations with CTiTV News.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said on Tuesday during the release of the nation’s first human rights report in English that he did not want the media in the nation to present only one viewpoint.

Hsu asked Shyr for his views on Ma’s remarks, adding that his personal interpretation was that Ma did not want Taiwan to become a “heaven for pro-China opinions.”

Hsu said the issue of China’s acquisition of Taiwanese media should be addressed as a matter of national security.

In response, Shyr said the last thing a democratic country wanted was to have its media convey only one viewpoint.

Should the media acquisition involve national security issues, the commission would work closely with relevant government agencies, he said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) asked Shyr if he thought that certain groups have indeed monopolized the operations of the nation’s media outlets. Shyr said that owning more media outlets gives a media group more economic power. However, he said that that this did not mean that the group could have absolute control over the expression of public opinion.

“Public opinion in Taiwan is very diverse and has multiple ways to be expressed,” he said. “The student protests against media monopolization, for example, were organized through online media.”

Shyr also said that research on media monopolization mainly focused on whether it hindered exposure to certain opinions or news, or how the media group utilizes the advantage to create certain trends.