Want Want China Times Media Group (旺旺中時集團) founder Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) yesterday told an administrative hearing that he does not interfere in the daily operations of CTi News, and that he had come to the meeting to defend the dignity and the survival of the people working at the news channel.
The hearing was organized by the National Communications Commission (NCC) as part of its review of the news channel’s application to renew its operating license, which is set to expire at the end of this year.
During the eight-and-a-half-hour hearing that began at 9:30am, Tsai, also the chairman of San Want Holding Ltd (神旺投資), which owns 75 percent of CTi News, did not speak until he was called to answer questions from NCC commissioners Wang Wei-ching (王維菁) and Lin Lih-yun (林麗雲) at about 1pm.
Asked how he communicated with the media group’s management while ensuring that they carry out his ideals of “truth and reason, and an authentic love for Taiwan,” Tsai said he only visits the offices of CTi News and the Chinese-language China Times two or three times a year to join company employees in praying to the gods during Ghost Festival and other events.
He denied that he was there to instruct them how to write news reports, adding that management did not always listen to him anyway.
Tsai said that many people tried to dissuade him from attending the hearing after he was targeted in a hearing on Want Want China Times’ bid to acquire China Network Systems (中嘉網路), the nation’s second-largest multiple systems operator, in 2012.
Unlike the public hearing in 2012, where he looked impatient and irritated at times when answering questions from NCC commissioners, Tsai appeared more amicable yesterday and even apologized to the commissioners if what he said had offended them.
Asked about the subsidies that Want Want China Holdings Ltd (中國旺旺控股), of which he is chairman, received from the Chinese government in the past 11 years, Tsai said they were available to all companies in China, including those from the US and Japan.
Want Want China Holdings is a publicly traded firm in Hong Kong, and subsidies were not granted to him alone, he said.
Tsai said Want Want China Times is his personal investment, but he has been repeatedly and unjustifiably humiliated for it in the past 10 years.
“I grew up in Taiwan and built a business in China. Both are my hometown. All I hoped for is be a platform for cross-strait communication,” he said, adding that he wondered what he had done to make people think he had betrayed Taiwan.
Tsai said he was saddened to learn that China Times’ reporters are despised by their peers because many young people think badly of him.
All he wants is for people in Taiwan to live a good life, he said.
Tsai’s attorney, Fang Po-hsun (方伯勳), raised procedural issues several times during the hearing and asked to question NCC officials, expert witnesses and CTi News’ ombudsman.
NCC Commissioner Hsiao Chi-hung (蕭祈宏) only agreed to extend the time for his opening presentation from 25 minutes to 30 minutes, and allowed him access to expert witnesses’ reports and to question them and the ombudsman, but denied his other requests.
Fang said that CTi News secured a passing grade in the review of its performance from 2014 to 2017.
Five of the channel’s 21 contraventions of media regulations in the past six years are being disputed in the administrative court, he said, adding that the NCC should not reject its license renewal application based on unsettled cases.
The channel is being punished for its political news coverage because it had received the most complaints from viewers, but this is only a reflection of the political inclination of the public, rather than the quality of its news reports, he said.
Expert witnesses unanimously criticized the performance of CTi News, with two of them urging the NCC not to renew its license.
Aside from mishandling news reports about the channel itself, it allocated a disproportionately high percentage of its reports to former Kaohsiung mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) when he was running for the post in 2018, they said.
One of them said that the amount of fines accumulated in the past six years are evidence that the news channel’s internal quality control mechanism had failed.
CTi News is the only channel in the country that did not report on the democratic uprising in Hong Kong and Beijing’s persecution of Uighurs, they said, adding that it lacks diversity in content.
Liang Tien-hsia (梁天俠), who has been the chief director of the channel’s news department since March, said that the fines date back to before she took charge of the newsroom.
CTi News would not devote an excessive amount of airtime to coverage of specific politicians with her at the helm, she added.
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