The government yesterday refused to bow to demands recently made by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus that the budget for the Public Television Service (PTS) be used as a mechanism to screen the public broadcaster’s news coverage and programming.
“Any programs broadcast by PTS will not be censored by the government in advance or afterwards,” said Vanessa Shih (史亞平), minister of the Government Information Office (GIO), the regulatory agency of the PTS Foundation.
PTS published a statement in major Chinese-language newspapers yesterday saying that a draft legislative motion proposed by the KMT caucus would severely infringe upon its operations, which should be independent from political parties, the government and the military.
On Tuesday during a legislative committee meeting, the KMT proposed that PTS would require prior item-by-item approval from the GIO for all budgetary spending.
The KMT’s motion also demanded that the Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Council of Hakka Affairs and the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission be responsible for the operations of Taiwan Indigenous Television, Hakka Television Station and Taiwan Macroview TV respectively, in terms of screening and supervising of the production of their programs.
KMT lawmakers wanted to attach the motion to the service’s budget to make it binding.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) accused the KMT caucus of interfering with the media, saying that the country’s democracy would take a big step backward should the motion pass the legislature.
“It’s really pathetic that the KMT would meddle in public broadcasting to prevent dissenting views in order to protect its authoritarian rule,” Chiu said.
KMT legislative caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) rebutted the accusation, saying that the motion was merely intended to urge the government agencies to be responsible for the TV stations they supervise, not to interfere with the media.
The Association of Taiwan Journalists called on the KMT caucus to withdraw the motion, which it said would compromise the independence of the media to the extent of the Martial Law era.
PTS hasn’t been able to use NT$450 million (US$13.5 million), the budget earmarked for the second half year of this year, as it has remained frozen by the KMT-controlled legislature.
Shih said the government would continue to communicate with the KMT caucus to unfreeze the budget and ensure the interests of PTS staffers remained unaffected.
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