KMT’s control of media: the real reason behind Talking Show’s reduced hours
I blogged about the Taiwan’s most popular political commentary programme, Talking Show’s weekend slot being cancelled a while ago and in that post, some suspicion of the KMT government interference was raised because the show’s popularity remains high and has even increased after Ma’s governemt’s series of failures and mishandling of the economic and political situations. According to Nielson rating, its reception is as much as 3 other similar programmes put together and the revenue from that show alone would be higher than any others. ‘Cost saving’ was hardly convincing. Today, I saw the following article which confirmed the suspicion.
According to the article, cost saving was indeed just an excuse to reduce hours for Talking Show. The real reason was that the home of the Sanlih TV president was raided by Investigation Bureau. The cause for their ‘investigation’ and the ‘raid’ was not revealed. It was said that the senior management of Sanlih decided to sacrifice the weekend slots for Talking Show as a compromise to the KMT, which is believe to be the evidence presented and discussed by Talking Show , combined by the show host’s personal popularity, is a real headache to a government that often lies and has a lot to hide. Premier Liu and DoH Minister openly criticised Talking Show in the Parliament and Liu also slammed the show host publicly on a separate occassion.
A similar incident happened to a radio station in Taichung after it invited former President Chen for an interview. It was reported that the adverts placed with the radio station were withdrawn rapidly after the interview and Inland Revenue launched an investigation against the radio station, which is still ongoing.
It seems that the KMT is gaining control of the media, and more importantly suppressing freedom of speech for the opposition, by any means. They don’t openly order the shutdown or persecution of the media like they did years ago. Rather, they do it stealthily by setting any government agencies with investigative power on the opposition and those who can’t stand the legal harassment would finally cave in.
The same article also gave an update for the status of the Public Television Service. In the beginning of December 2008, the KMT party whip, Lin, Yi-shih, proposed to change the law and allow the government to monitor the programming of public TV. This would allow the KMT direct control, with taxpayers’ money, over the entire public TV network in Taiwan despite Article 11 of the Public Television Law stipulating “public television belongs to the entire body of citizens and that its operations should be independent and autonomous and free from interference”.
The most recent report revealed that several civil groups visited Lin, Yi-shih and appealed for his consideration to withdraw his bill. However, during the hour long meeting, Lin, albeit courteous enough to grant the meeting, gave no room for negotiation, let alone compromise. The arrogance of the majority was evident. E.g. he said “it will become legal once the law is amended” and that he was not afraid of losing votes over this bill. He told the representatives from those groups that “the public support behind me is more than what I can say for the lot of you”. When the representatives told Lin that they would approach Ma, Ying-jeou, Lin replied that he and Ma had talked about it and they would both stand by this decision as long as he (Lin) was in this position (the KMT Party Policy Coordination Director, i.e. the whip). As a result, those groups are going to stage a street protest against the government on 1st January 2009 to ‘save the public TV’.
Let’s also not forget that Lin’s wife is actually a journalist, the parliamentary correspondent of the once KMT owned China Television Co. but the CTC has never changed her assignment to avoid conflicts of interest. It looks like the KMT does not only violate the law and not care about conflicts of interest but believe that they are the law because they will just amend it when they want to break the initial one!
Sadly, things don’t just stop there. There is a separate report on NCC’s plan to allow political parties, government and its related agencies to directly invest in the media to stop them doing it indirectly (implying that some parties are?) They emphasised that they would keep the ceiling of the allowed share proportion low. The NCC spokesperson said that the ‘party/government free’ principle should be interpreted as ‘no control’ rather than ‘no investment’ and as such, the NCC would amend the law to allow some direct investments from political parties. Oh, dear…
Well…(sigh)… Since when did investments not come with some power to control? Can anyone give an example of shareholders not having any control of a company? This is not like legalising drug taking where some believe that criminalising drug taking would only push addicts to go underground and engage in more dangerous behaviour. This is freedom of speech and freedom of press we are talking about.
Looking into Taiwan, which political party will have money to spare for media investment? Let’s think! The DPP is knee deep in debt and the TSU’s been so marginalised in the last parliamentary election to the extent that their fund raising ability could be in serious question. Of course, the KMT, with party assets, would be the only party that can benefit from this amendment. Given that they are already meddling with media that belong to the ‘public’, will they leave those they have shares in alone?