In an apparent move to fulfill the three conditions laid down by the National Communications Commission (NCC) for its acquisition of the cable TV services owned by China Network Systems (CNS), the pro-China Want Want China Times Group has reportedly put CtiTV’s (中天電視) news channel in a trust under the Industrial Bank of Taiwan (IBT, 台灣工銀).
IBT head Tony Yang (楊錦裕) confirmed the move on Friday, saying the bank has received enquiries into the entrustment of the news channel and had agreed to take on the case after conducting evaluations.
He declined to reveal further details.
CtiTV spokesman Huang Chun-jen (黃俊仁) could not be reached for comment as of press time.
The commission on July 25 last year conditionally approved the media giant’s bid to purchase cable services owned by CNS, the nation’s second-largest multiple systems operator.
The approval would take effect once the media conglomerate fulfills three stipulated conditions before specific deadlines: that Want Want China Times Group Chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) and his family sever all ties with the management of CtiTV’s news channel; that China Television Co’s (CTV, 中視) news channel be changed into a non-news channel; and that an independent editorial system be set up for CTV’s news department.
The acquisition could affect about 1.18 million of the nation’s households, or about one-quarter of households with a TV, making Want Want China Times Group — which already owns several media outlets including CTV, Chinese-language newspapers Want Daily, China Times and China Times Weekly — the largest media group in the country.
Upon the transfer of CtiTV’s news channel into a trust, the TV station’s management and personnel administration would fall under the control of IBT.
However, under normal circumstances, the trustees would not be entitled to unilaterally dispose or transfer properties belonging to the trustors without the latter’s specific authorization.
According to an official from the Securities and Futures Bureau at the Financial Supervisory Commission, who requested anonymity, creating a trust would allow the trustor to transfer not only the management right of their property, but also its legal ownership to the trustee.
While there is no statutory time limit for making such ownership transfers, both parties involved could stipulate a timeframe of their own accord, the official added.
“However, settlors are also given the option to retain discretionary rights over their trust assets, allowing them to stipulate terms such as that sales of their properties would only take effect upon their approval,” the official said.
The official added that the scope of the trustors’ entitlement to their trust properties could be determined in advance by both parties.
Meanwhile, the media group has also tendered to the commission a managerial proposal to transform CTV’s news channel into a non-news channel and an application to establish an autonomous editorial system for CTV, NCC spokesman Yu Hsiao-cheng (虞孝成) said.
Yu said the commission was already examining the documentation submitted by the group and would refer the case to the NCC committee for deliberation in due course.
Yu added that there would be no timeframe for the conclusion of the review.
“The amount of time required to review the case hinges on its level of complexity. But the one thing the NCC can be assured of is that all three conditions must be fulfilled [before the approval could take effect],” Yu said.
In related news, Tsai’s son, Tsai Shao-chung (蔡紹中), resigned as CtiTV chairman on Friday, reportedly in a move to pave the way for him to take the helm of the Chinese-language Apple Daily, one of the four Taiwanese media outlets previously owned by the Next Media Group that were sold in November last year to a consortium of which his father was a member.
Other media outlets included in the NT$17.5 billion (US$600.86 million) acquisition — which has been at the center of a recent spate of student protests against media monopoly — were Next TV as well as Chinese-language newspaper Sharp Daily and Next Magazine.
CtiTV general manager Ma Yung-jui (馬詠睿) will take over the position left vacant by Tsai Shao-chung.
Additional reporting by Wang Meng-lun and Huang Cheng-yin