The National Communications Commission (NCC) on Wednesday announced that, following an independent review process, it has rejected CTi News’ application to renew its broadcasting license. The unanimous decision by its seven members marked the first time since its inception in 2006 that it has rejected a request for a license renewal by a news channel.
CTi News, which is widely perceived to be a pro-China broadcaster that takes its editorial line from Beijing, has fallen foul of broadcast regulations on multiple occasions in the past few years.
Last year, the commission received 962 complaints relating to CTi News’ output, which accounted for about one-third of all complaints it received that year. From 2014 to this year, the channel was fined a total of NT$11.53 million (US$400,097) for 25 breaches of media regulations.
NCC Chairman Chen Yaw-shyang (陳耀祥) said that it was the serial breaching of broadcast regulations by CTi News that caused the commission to decide not to renew its license.
The station has also been constantly dogged by allegations that its pro-unification owner, Want Want chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), has directly and indirectly interfered in the station’s news output. Tsai, who inherited his father’s Wang Wang rice cracker business empire and was Taiwan’s wealthiest individual in 2017, strongly advocates unification with China and lives in Shanghai.
Perhaps the most egregious example of CTi News’ partisan output was the wall-to-wall coverage that the channel gave then-Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) during his presidential campaign last year. An audit conducted by the NCC found that the station dedicated 70 percent of its airtime in May last year to Han, who is widely believed to have been Beijing’s preferred candidate.
As Reporters Without Borders said on the Taiwan section of its Web site, Beijing is exploiting weaknesses in Taiwan’s media environment and putting pressure on Taiwanese media owners, who often have business interests in China. It added that Beijing is suspected of orchestrating online disinformation campaigns.
On July 17 last year, the Financial Times published an investigation into the Want Want China Times Media Group, with the article quoting a CTi reporter, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying that the media group receives daily instructions directly from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.
Despite the overwhelming body of evidence that indicates there are deep-rooted problems with the quality and impartiality of CTi News’ output, the pan-blue camp went on the offensive.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) immediately took to Twitter to spin the narrative that the NCC’s ruling was politically motivated. The KMT also released a statement accusing the government of interfering with freedom of the press and said the ruling would have a “chilling effect” on other local media outlets.
Many other members of the pan-blue camp weighed in, too, including KMT Taipei City Councilor Wang Hung-wei (王鴻薇), who described the decision as “nauseating” and claimed it made Taiwan the laughingstock of the world. She also posted a large black image with “Press freedom is dead” superimposed in large white typeface on her Facebook page.
Taiwan is not in a normal situation: Across the other side of the Strait, there is a hostile nation hell bent on using every means at its disposal to annex Taiwan. These “united front” tactics involve the infiltration of Taiwan at all levels of society, including its media organizations.
The termination of CTi News’ license is neither an issue of free speech, nor freedom of the press. Rather, it is about shutting down a media organization that has been assiduously pumping out propaganda on behalf of Beijing to sow disinformation and distort the political debate; few will mourn its demise.
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