National Communications Commission Chairperson Howard Shyr (石世豪) yesterday said the commission would unveil a draft act regulating cross-media ownership in March that will be submitted to the legislature for review in June after gathering opinions from the public.
Shyr made the commitment at a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, where a review of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) proposed amendments to the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法), the Cable Television Act (有線電視法) and the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) was conducted.
The amendments, all of which were passed, seek to prevent the monopolization of media outlets.
However, Shyr said the commission may have problems enforcing some of the amendments, while some Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators questioned the viability of some of them.
DPP Legislator Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷), who presided over the meeting, ruled that the amendments should be submitted to the plenary session without further negotiations among the parties.
However, the unexpected bipartisan support for the amendments upset DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), who accused the KMT of using the legislation to appease the public ahead of the “Fury” rally on Sunday, organized by the DPP.
“I can see that Shyr opposed the amendments, but the ruling party still let them pass,” she said. “I have to warn the ruling party that you’d better not try to overturn any of these amendments later, or you might have to face a series of protests in future.”
The amendments include provisions whereby foreign investors may not own more than 60 percent of the shares in cable TV systems, including both direct and indirect investments. Also, loans that foreign investors secure from financial institutions may not exceed 30 percent of their capital.
Operators of national newspapers or terrestrial TV services, as well as those owning more than 10 percent of shares in national newspapers or terrestrial TV services, would be banned from operating a cable TV system or from holding indirectly or directly more than 10 percent of the shares in a cable TV system.
In addition, cable system operators must file for public offering of stocks from the securities regulator. Financial holding firms, banks and insurance companies, on the other hand, are banned from investing in, managing or controlling the media.
Meanwhile, cable operators are not allowed to own more than one-tenth of basic TV channels, down from one-quarter of such channels. They must also apply for permission from the administrative authority if a cross-media merger would allow them to control the media. The administrative authority must conduct investigations and hearings on the qualifications of the owners of these merged operations, and stipulate the principles, procedures and items for review.
The amendments also require a satellite TV channel or a radio service operator to have an independent board director to ensure that freedom of the press is protected. Each TV channel or radio operator is required by law to stipulate editorial guidelines to preserve the independence and self-regulation mechanisms of the media.
Shyr said the proposed amendments focus on the regulations of mergers between newspapers and cable TV operators, or mergers between terrestrial TV services and cable TV operators.
Similar regulations have already been stipulated in several broadcasting acts and the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法).