Groups draft act on media monopolies

WORDS, ACTION::Activists criticized lawmakers for failing to fulfill vows to pass anti-media monopoly laws, saying that their proposal would set ‘red lines’ for news outlets

By Loa Iok-sin and Chris Wang  /  Staff reporters

Thu, May 16, 2013 - Page 4

Anti-media monopoly activists yesterday proposed their version of an anti-monopoly act and urged legislative caucuses across party lines to fulfill their promises to enact measures to prevent media monopolies.

“Despite many politicians across party lines promising that they would push for legislation against media monopolization, they have been rather unenthusiastic about turning their words into action,” Chiu Hei-yuan (瞿海源), a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology, told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan. “I hope lawmakers can show that they are sincere about this issue.”

Chiu was referring to various proposals to prevent media monopolization that have been stalled several times since last year, despite receiving vocal support from lawmakers.

He said that since the Cabinet’s proposals for these types of regulation fall “far beneath activists’ expectations,” proponents of media reform have come up with their own legislation that they are urging legislators to adopt.

Outlining the activists’ proposal, Youth Alliance Against Media Monsters spokesman Wu Hsueh-chan (吳學展) said the group believes that a media anti-monopoly act should only apply to news media outlets — not entertainment or sports channels — to not waste administrative resources.

“The law should protect media workers’ rights, make sure that the public interest is secured, guarantee the independence of reporters in handling news items and prevent unfair competition among media organizations,” Wu said. “By ‘unfair competition,’ we mean, for example, that a cable service provider which has the power to decide whether a channel is aired should not be allowed to operate news outlets.”

Alliance for Civic and Media Reform convener Yeh Ta-hua (葉大華) agreed, saying: “I know people may have different definitions of ‘media monopoly,’ but our objective is to create a set of ‘red lines’ and standards for news media, and to prevent them from being crossed.”

“By drafting this proposal, we have done all the work for lawmakers and the government, all they need to do is give their support,” Yeh said.

The activists said they would stage a rally outside the Legislative Yuan today, as a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee takes place inside, to try and monitor the progress in reviewing media anti-monopoly regulations.

Separately yesterday, another anti-monopoly group urged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to live up to its pledge and do its best to pass legislation against media monopolization.

Representatives of the 901 Anti-Media Monopoly Alliance told DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and DPP caucus convener Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) that they have come up with an integrated version of an media anti-monopoly act that employs a looser definition of what constitutes a media monopoly than what the DPP uses.

The integrated version prohibits five types of media outlets and platforms that have more than one-third market share from forming mergers, in particular cable television operators with more than a 20 percent market share, National Taiwan University professor Chang Chin-hua (張錦華) said.

The definition is looser than the DPP-proposed “red line” of outlets with 10,000 cable TV subscribers and aims to tame opposition from cable TV system operators and digital content providers because “we do not oppose digital convergence,” he said.

Regarding a bill against media monopolization proposed by the National Communications Commission, the group said it was the worst proposal so far, as it used a complicated and questionable methodology to identify media monopolies.

Su and Ker both pledged to fully support anti-monopoly regulations, with Su saying that the party’s insistence on passing a law and opposition to media monopolization had never wavered.

However, Ker said the fate of such legislation would still be “pretty much decided by the attitude of the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] caucus,” which enjoys a legislative majority, adding that the DPP faced time constraints in passing bills before the current session goes into recess at the end of the month.