“Untrue or unfair broadcasting content” was the No. 1 complaint among television viewers last year, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said in a recent report, adding that a majority of the cases were related to content aired on news programs.
Statistics from the broadcasting media regulator showed that it received a total of 1,787 complaints about content aired on television or radio last year, with 668 of them about what the audiences perceived as untrue or unfair content. Among these cases, 565 related to TV news content.
Other TV news show complaints included the violation of journalistic ethics — such as exposing the identities of people affected by crime or suspects — failing to verify facts, or reporting individuals as guilty before they were convicted.
The commission said the fact that many complaints targeted news programs showed that people have high expectations of the fairness of news reporting.
May Chen (陳依玫), chairwoman of the self-disciplinary committee at the Satellite Television Broadcasting Association, said the association held several meetings last year to review news coverage of the crimes, including the murders of an elderly couple in Bali District (八里), New Taipei City, and several others.
“Prior to the homicide in Bali, our members had exercised great discipline in covering crimes,” Chen said. “However, the coverage of the Bali double homicide went wrong for several reasons.”
“First, the police reopened the investigation after they concluded that the victims had committed suicide,” Chen said. “The New Taipei City police later gave contradictory information to reporters.”
Chen said that only three of its members — Eastern TV, CtiTV and TVBS — provided live broadcast of a controversial Chinese singing program.
The three TV stations were subsequently asked to maintain their editorial independence whenever they cover such an event, she said.
When asked about the criticism of new coverage being untrue or unfair, Chen said that each case had to be examined individually to make a proper judgement.
“We are not living in an age in which information only comes from a few TV channels anymore,” Chen said. “Whenever something happens, the news can be seen on terrestrial television, cable television and through the Internet on the mobile phones or computers. It is impossible for one media outlet to monopolize access to information. Even the 11 cable news channels are not identical in where they stand politically.”
“People may have different ideas about what constitutes ‘fair’ coverage. That may be open to people’s interpretations,” Chen said. “However, news media should do their jobs in verifying the facts to avoid untrue coverage.”