Academics and netizens have accused CTi News and ETTV of abandoning journalistic professionalism after the two news channels on Friday showed a live four-hour broadcast of a Chinese singing competition under the auspices of news reporting.
A group of seven veteran singers, including four from Taiwan — Terry Lin (林志炫), Aska Yang (楊宗緯), Julia Peng (彭佳慧) and Winnie Hsin (辛曉琪) ─ competed on Friday during the season finale of a closely watched Chinese TV show, titled I Am A Singer (我是歌手), produced by China’s Hunan TV.
Several Taiwanese TV stations, including CTi News and ETTV, carried live broadcasts of the show on Friday by having TV anchors providing lead-ins for partial segments of the show, in an apparent effort to circumvent laws that Chinese programs must first be reviewed by the Ministry of Culture and the Mainland Affairs Council before they can be aired in Taiwan.
CTi News even went so far as to announce that it was live-streaming the show, with ETTV canceling its flagship talk show, This Is It (關鍵時刻) — which is aired on weekdays between 10pm and midnight — on Friday for what it said was a special report on the singing competition.
The stations did not resume normal programming until at about 12:22am on Saturday, triggering harsh criticism from academics that their handling of the singing competition had profoundly undermined journalistic professionalism in the nation.
Kuang Chung-hsiang (管中祥), an associate professor in National Chung Cheng University’s department of communication, said the TV channels’ live broadcast of the show not only squeezed out news coverage of major events, but also showed disrespect to their reporters.
“These TV stations hire journalists to report on news events, and yet they choose to take the easy route … In the long run, what they are doing could damage their professionalism and credibility,” Kuang said.
Association of Taiwan Journalists chairwoman Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) said that while media content regulation was left entirely self-regulated, media outlets that provided extensive coverage of a specific event tended to neglect issues that were of higher news value and were thus more likely to damage their professionalism and irritate the public.
“By doing so media outlets expose their short-sightedness, because they are supposed to promote local programs rather than blindly hyping a foreign show,” Chen said.
Meanwhile, netizens also lambasted the TV stations for buttering up China and abandoning their journalistic integrity.
“The next time CTi News and ETTV try to renew their satellite TV licenses, the National Communications Commission [NCC] may as well rename them to the Channel One and Channel Two of Hunan TV,” a netizen wrote.
Another netizen lashed out at ETTV for canceling This Is It for a Chinese show, saying that the station had willingly turned itself into a “China ass-kisser” and an entertainment channel.
As the TV stations chose the live broadcast of the show over not only their own programs, but also over news coverage of major events that night — such as luggage containing explosives being found on a high-speed rail train and the conclusion of an investigation into a double homicide in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Bali District (八里) — a Chinese netizen questioned whether the two stations had been bought off by the Chinese government.
In response, ETTV said it did not carry a live broadcast of the show, but simply ran a special report on the event, while CTi News declined to comment.
The Ministry of Culture said it would look into the matter to ascertain whether the stations in question really had “sneaked the Chinese show into the nation” before it could impose disciplinary measures.
The NCC said it would not intervene in news content.
Additional reporting by Wu Chih-wei and Lin Chia-chi