‘Talking Show’ in Taiwan being cancelled altogether?
On 16th January, there were news reports about Talking Show being completely cancelled or the show host, Cheng Hung-yi, being replaced. It was said that Mr. Cheng’s pro-green stance made it impossible for the television company, Sanlih, to establish a good working relationship with the KMT government and to win any bids for a government project. The fact that the replacement programme for Talking Show’s original weekend slots was doing better (in terms of rating) than Talking Show’s weekend version gave Sanlih more ammunition to show Cheng the door.
Other than business considerations, an inside source disclosed that the decision to cancel the show’s weekend slot was made right after the owner of Sanlih and the Presidential Office Chief Secretary had a dinner conversation and Sanlih management also decided to gradually reduce Cheng’s appearance by first cancelling the weekend slots in December 2008 and then replacing him completely after February 2009. The Presidential Office Spokesperson denied all allegations and re-emphasised that Ma Ying-jeou would never interfere with the media.
After the news broke out, a huge number of viewers contacted Sanlih TV, voicing their concerns about Talking Show’s future and expressing their support for Cheng. When approached, Cheng said that he was not in a position to comment and that things would be clearer after February. The CEO of Sanlih later reassures the viewers that Talking Show will continue and there is no plan to change the show host but they will take over the production (the show production has been contracted externally).
Taipei City Council, Chein Yuyen, currently visiting Seattle and talking to various Taiwanese American groups, posted an article about this issue. She said that she was woken up by panicking phone calls in Seattle and everyone was expressing their worries about Talking Show. Suspicions of political pressure aside, Talking Show and Cheng have been under heavy fire from pro-blue media, some of which are unfounded allegations and against professional ethics.
Ms Chien, a former journalist, believes that if Ma’s government would appoint his campaign spokesperson who had no expertise in journalism as the Deputy Head of Central News Agency, interfere with Public Television Service and put pressure on news editors, it is unlikely that they would leave political commentary programmes alone. She reminds us that other political talk shows have been going on about former President Chen for months and wouldn’t change subject (e.g. Chen Yunlin’s visit, consumer vouchers) even after their rating has dropped. She is of the view that the current press freedom is back to the Martial Law period. She claims that even though the density of media and competition between media are high, the over reliance on inexperienced journalists has made the industry less capable of critical and independent thinking.
Ms Chien also points out that Ma’s government is going to allow adverts and commercials from China. Once the Chinese have power over media commercials, would they not have power over the programmes that rely on incomes from commercials? The government has already been suspected to harass companies which would place adverts or commercials with Green friendly media. If the Chinese join force with them, the future of Taiwanese media seems rather grim.
I do hope that Mr Cheng survives this because political stance aside, I have a lot of respect for his hard work, professionalism and commitment to base his critiques and analyses on figures and evidence and his passion for Taiwan.
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