The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday said it could issue as many as 36 new radio licenses, adding that they are also open for bidding from current radio service operators.
NCC Chairperson Howard Shyr (石世豪) said the commission intended to issue between 32 and 34 licenses for FM broadcasting, including one to three nationwide broadcasting licenses, nine for medium-power radio stations and 22 for low-power radio stations.It will also issue two licenses for AM broadcasting.
Shyr said the commission had decided to lift its ban on current radio operators bidding for licenses.
He said the commission is encouraging mergers between low-power radio stations or between small-power and medium-power radio stations, so that they can apply for licenses for medium-power stations or even nationwide broadcasting licenses.
Should current operators obtain new licenses, Shyr said they are obligated to give back the frequencies previously assigned to them. The returned frequencies could be used the next time the commission decides to issue new radio licenses.
Based on the commission’s plan, licenses for low-power radio stations will be awarded based on the results of a commission review. Those applying for licenses for medium-power stations or nationwide broadcasting services first need to undergo an operating review by the commission, and operators that are deemed qualified in the review can then bid for licenses.
The commission said it would give additional points in its review if a radio station has experience of producing and broadcasting radio programs, or if its workers have participated in radio personnel training sessions hosted by the commission.
In other developments, the commission’s proposed act to regulate cross-media ownership — commonly known as the act against monopolization in the media — drew mixed reactions from the public, with media watchdog groups saying that the act is too lenient on TV operators.
Association of Taiwan Journalists president Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) said the proposed act bars mergers of satellite news channels if it would lead to a TV viewership rate exceeding 5 percent.
She said a survey by ACNielsen in 2011 showed that the combined viewership rate of seven cable news channels — ERA TV, Eastern TV, CtiTV, Formosa TV, SET TV, TVBS and Unique TV — is only 2.2 percent.
“The act would be pro-monopolization in the media if it uses viewership, listenership or readership rates as the standards to approve or deny a merger,” Chen said. “They should use a media outlet’s share in the market to tackle the issue of monopoly, otherwise the act will be useless.”
She also said that the commission ruled in both the Dafu-Kbro deal and the Want Want-China Network Systems deal that a cable TV system operator must not operate a news or financial news channel, but the proposed act gives them permission to acquire news channels.
The proposed act, Chen said, failed to consider the influence of online media and simply takes into account the influence of television, radio and newspapers.
The act should stipulate that the government has to establish a journalism development fund to ensure sustainable development of the nation’s media, she said.
However, Control Yuan member Frank Wu (吳豐山) and former NCC commissioner Liu Kung-chung (劉孔中) said the proposed act was too harsh on media outlets.
Liu said in an interview with the Chinese-language China Times that the act was drafted by “merciless government officials” who may have problems later enforcing the articles in the act.
He said the act would not help traditional media to advance in the age of digital convergence.
The proposed act states that a merger between print and broadcast media would not be allowed if it generates an overall influence on public opinion that is comparable to a television viewership rate of more than 20 percent.
If a cross-media merger involves news channels or channels airing news programs, the commission would ban the merger if it creates an influence comparable to a television viewership rate of 15 percent.
Newspapers and weekly magazines are banned from merging with broadcasting media if they have a readership rate exceeding 10 percent.