NCC’s media monopoly bill divides experts

TOO BIG::The Association of Taiwan Journalists’ chairwoman criticized the commission for using the nation’s entire population as the denominator when calculating influence

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Mar 22, 2013 - Page 3

The National Communications Commission’s (NCC) draft proposal on preventing monopolization of the media divided opinion in a meeting yesterday, with some participants questioning the draft’s ability to regulate acquisitions and others saying the proposed legislation is unnecessary.

Association of Taiwan Journalists chairwoman Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) disagreed with the commission’s use of viewership, listenership and readership rates as a means to gauge the influence of media outlets on public opinion, especially when the denominator was the nation’s entire population.

“The purpose of this legislation is to prevent the side effects caused by the concentration of media ownership,” she said. “People who do not watch, listen to or read the media will not be under the influence of media outlets. The denominators should strictly be those who watch, listen to and read the media.”

Saying the commission had stated in the proposed draft of the broadcasting media monopolization prevention and diversity preservation act that it had consulted the EU’s concept of audience share before it decided to use viewership rates as a means to gauge media influence, Chen said audience share is still very different from the ratings referred to by NCC Chairperson Howard Shyr (石世豪).

“The denominator of the audience share is the average number of audience members in a specific media market during a certain period of time, not the total population of a nation,” Chen said. “The commission wrote down two different concepts in its act, one in the legislative purpose section and the other in the actual articles. Either the commission is utterly confused about these two different concepts or it intends to give media outlets an easy ride by using the larger denominator [total population] to dilute media influence.”

Britain and Germany use newspaper circulation figures or average audience share as denominators, not the total population, she said.

However, Shyr said that no two countries use the same standards to regulate media ownership, adding that each country is entitled to stipulate its own standards based on its media market and its culture.

He also defended the use of the total population as a denominator for calculating media influence, saying its use accurately reflects the joint influence of different types of media, including online media.

“Nobody can deny the influence of online media, which contributed to the ‘Arab Spring,’” he said. “Except for a very few countries in the world, the Internet is a media outlet free from any government censorship.”

He also said it was impossible for any media enterprise to own all the TV news channels, because there is a cap on the number of the channels that can be acquired by one firm.

Meanwhile, the “Heart of Zhongwang Alliance” (中旺之心同盟) said there was no need for the act because such monopolization does not exist in this country.