Hold hearing on Want Want deal, activists urge

CONDITIONS::Association of Taiwan Journalists head Chen Hsiao-yi said that Tsai Eng-meng has not given up control of CtiTV news, but is running it through associates

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Jan 31, 2013 - Page 4

Media reform activists yesterday urged the National Communications Commission (NCC) to hold an administrative hearing on whether Want Want China Times Group has met its conditions for the purchase of China Network Systems’ cable TV operations.

The commission’s main conditions require Want Want China Times Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) or any party related to him to completely dissociate themselves from CtiTV news. It said they must not control, manage or hold shares in the TV channel.

The commission also said China Television’s (CTV) digital news channel must become a non-news channel and CTV must establish an independent editorial system.

The Want Want China Times Group responded to the commission’s demands last year by placing its shares in CtiTV news under the trust of the Industrial Bank of Taiwan (IBT). It submitted an application to the commission for approval last month.

Association of Taiwan Journalists chairwoman Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) said the group was two-faced about fulfilling the conditions.

“It filed an administrative lawsuit against the commission in an attempt to avoid having to fulfill the conditions, but in the meantime, it put its shares in CtiTV news under the trust of IBT. This two-faced strategy was to create an impression that the group had severed its ties with CtiTV news and disguise the fact that Tsai Eng-meng still controls the channel,” Chen said.

Although Tsai’s son resigned as chairman of CtiTV news, Chen said his successor, former CtiTV general manager Ma Yung-jui (馬詠睿), was closely related to Tsai.

Not only did Ma and other managers attend the public hearing on the Want Want-CNS deal last year to defend Tsai, Chen said, he also directed CtiTV’s news team to heavily report on the group’s allegations that Academia Sinica associate research fellow Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) had paid his students to join protests against media monopolization.

The group later apologized for falsely accusing Huang in its news reports.

“The management team chosen by Tsai continues to manage CtiTV news and this demonstrates that Tsai still directs and controls personnel appointments and the operation of the channel,” Chen said.

She said IBT chairman Kenneth Lo (駱錦明) is very close to the family of Jeffery Koo Jr (辜仲諒), chairman of the Chinatrust Charity Foundation, and Tsai placed his CtiTV shares in trust soon after he and Koo launched a bid to purchase Next Media’s Taiwanese media outlets. This showed that Tsai has continued to control CtiTV through his business partners, she said.

Chen and National Taiwan University professors Chang Chin-hwa (張錦華), Jang Show-ling (鄭秀玲), Lin Li-yun (林麗雲) and Lin Tsung-nan (林宗男), as well as several activists, submitted a petition to the commission yesterday, asking it to hold a hearing to determine if Want Want China Times has met the commission’s conditions.

Chang said the Trust Act (信託法) was designed to protect property owners, because the act states that any change in the method of administration of a trust property shall be subject to the prior consent of the trustor, trustee and beneficiary. The act also states that the trustor or his inheritor has the right to terminate the trust at any time.

“What the group did will not completely dissociate itself from CtiTV news, nor will it make it completely separate from the channel,” Chang said.

Commission spokesperson Yu Hsiao-cheng (虞孝成) said the commission was still investigating the issue and its members had not yet discussed Want Want China Times’ application.

Huang Chin-yi (黃金益), director of the commission’s communication management department, said the group submitted its application on Dec. 16 and that under the Administrative Procedure Act (行政程序法), a ruling must be given within two months of receipt of an application.

However, the review period could be extended by two months if the commission deemed it necessary, Huang said.