Chinese Television System (CTS) is expecting financial losses of NT$260 million (US$9.14 million) this year, general manager Leon Chuang (莊豐嘉) told the Legislative Yuan’s Education and Culture Committee yesterday.
CTS aims to generate profits three years after it starts broadcasting its news channel on cable television, Chuang added.
The Ministry of Culture was scheduled to brief the committee on progress in drafting a public media act.
Chuang and the managers of other state-owned media outlets — the Central News Agency, Radio Taiwan International, the Public Television Service, Hakka TV and Taiwan Indigenous TV — attended the briefing to answer questions from committee members.
The network’s financial status came under scrutiny during the meeting because CTS New and Info is to air on Channel 52 — part of the cable news block — on Homeplus Digital’s cable systems from Monday next week.
CTS has more than NT$1.8 billion in accumulated losses, which exceeds its registered capital of NT$1.6 billion, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yi-hua (林奕華) said.
While broadcasting the Summer Universiade and Taiwan’s National Games in 2017 helped generate additional revenue and limited its losses that year to NT$160 million, the network had losses of NT$280 million in 2018 and NT$320 million in 2019, she said.
Asked what the network’s losses would be this year, Chuang said they would be NT$260 million.
“The network’s courage to broadcast on Channel 52 is certainly admirable, considering it is in such bad shape financially,” Lin said.
As part of the public Taiwan Broadcasting System, the network should not run commercials for political parties and become a propaganda machine, Lin added.
The Ministry of Culture should buy back 16.7 percent of CTS shares that are owned by private investors so that the network could be 100 percent public media, Lin said.
Commercials are commercials, whether bought by businesses or political parties, Chuang said, adding that the network aims to become profitable three years after CTS News and Info starts airing on Channel 52.
Its losses in that period should be more than NT$80 million to NT$90 million per year, he said.
Over the three years, its news department would grow from 170 employees to 400, he added.
CTS was donated to the government under the Divestment of Shares in Terrestrial Television Act (無線電視事業公股處理條例), Minister of Culture Lee Yung-te (李永得) said.
The act obligates the government to fund the network’s operations, but that is limited to Channel 12, the network’s main channel, he said.
“CTS News and Info joined the cable news block through business negotiations with cable system operators. The government does not have legal grounds to support the endeavor,” Lee said.
Government support was part of the rationale that CTS presented to the National Communications Commission (NCC) for why it should be allowed to broadcast on Channel 52.
“The network said that some PTS programs would air on CTS News and Info. That is what we understood was meant when the network said: ‘government support,’” NCC Vice Chairman Wong Po-tsung (翁柏宗) said.
“You would need to ask CTS whether that support also referred to an increase in funding,” Wong said.
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