Activists against media monopolization yesterday accused the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) of trying to fool the public by failing to honor its promise to list anti-monopoly bills among priority legislation for the extra legislative session that starts today.
“The KMT government changes its mind often, finds excuses and fools the public. It is making me extremely mad,” Academia Sinica research fellow Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) said during a demonstration outside the National Communications Commission’s (NCC) headquarters in Taipei.
He said that civic groups and activists were very excited when an anti-monopoly media bill proposed by the commission passed legislative committee review on May 30, with full support from commission Chairman Shih Shih-hao (石世豪), as well as KMT legislators such as Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) and Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾).
“Despite having agreed in writing to make anti-monopoly media legislation a priority, the KMT made a 180 degree turn as the extra session approached, saying that passing such legislation ‘is not an urgent necessity,’” Huang said.
“The KMT should stop fooling the public and honor its promises by making anti-monopoly media legislation a priority bill,” he said.
Huang said some media outlets have attempted to influence public opinion by saying that media monopolization was a non-issue. One outlet gave the issue extensive coverage last year, but it was not mentioning it now, he said.
“I seriously question if this media outlet was serious in opposing monopolization of the media,” he said. “If it only spoke for itself out of its own interests, then what makes it different from Want Want China Times Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), whom we opposed?”
The draft should be put on the agenda for the extra session, he said, adding that the commission cannot avoid its responsibility to help push through the legislation.
“If the commission chairperson has neither the desire nor the power to continue pushing the bill at the legislature, then please step down like a responsible politician,” he said.
Flora Chang (張錦華), a journalism professor at National Taiwan University, said the arguments of the Chinese-language China Times and United Daily News that the anti-monopolization media act was unnecessary because monopolization is not an issue in Taiwan.
“It appears that [controversial] media acquisitions have temporarily ceased, but that does not mean that there will not be any large media mergers in the future,” she said.
“The arguments from the two newspapers seemed to be saying that we don’t need buildings that are fireproof and can withstand earthquakes because there are no fires or earthquakes now,” she said.
Chang said that allowing media conglomerates to acquire media outlets will only worsen the quality of TV programs, given the way that some large media groups try to boost ratings by emphasizing their crime reports.
The draft act would have facilitated the development of digital media convergence because it requires to cable TV service operators to set aside 1 percent of their revenue to establish the Media Content Diversity Development Fund, but lawmakers deleted those articles, she said.
Eve Chiu (邱家宜), executive director of the Excellent Journalism Award Foundation, said she hoped the deleted articles would be put back in the legislation in the extra session.
“This fund would help develop the nation’s media content industry,” Chiu said. “Our singers would not need to go to China to join singing contests.”
Chiu said that many Taiwanese actors are forced to look for jobs in China because the nation’s TV stations are unwilling to spend money producing dramas anymore and prefer to broadcast South Korean or Chinese shows instead.