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Paying to be brainwashed by China

08/05/2009

DPP Legislator, Tsai Trong-rong, had an article in Liberty Times on 30th April. It says that the Executive Yuan is currently reviewing regulations related to Chinese investments in Taiwan. If this is passed, it does not have to go through the Parliament. The details are not revealed yet but according to the latest news report, the Chinese will be allowed to invest in satellite and cable TV companies in Taiwan.

At the moment, the reception/viewing of satellite and cable TV programmes constitutes 2/3 of all TV reception and 86% of households with TV have subscribed to satellite and cable TV services. Apart from the 20 independent systems, the other 44 were dominated by 5 major corporate groups. If the Chinese can invest the cable systems, they can get to up to 86% of TV viewing public. In other words, by allowing the Chinese investment in satellite and cable TV stations, the Ma government is handing China great access to brainwash the Taiwanese. With the Chinese government’s wealth and foreign reserve, it’s not difficult for China to buy all the satellite and cable TV systems.

Even without relaxing the rules, Chinese monies may have already been in the Taiwanese media for a long time, spreading inaccurate or biased information against Taiwan, idealising China. In 2005, then General Information Office Minister Pasuya Yao was under heavy fire for his handling about the media. One of the main sparkling points was the ownership and shares of TVBS. He said that TVBS was 100% foreign owned (Hong Kong, China).

His action coincided with the TVBS ‘2100’ talk show attacking the DPP with suspected corruption cases if they were all true (NB. In those cases, especially those related to Kaohsiung Underground, the prosecutors failed to find evidence to prosecute and those prosecuted have been cleared of all charges). The blue camp then accused Yao of persecuting those with a different political stance and suppressing ‘freedom of speech’, ignoring the question of TVBS’ foreign ownership. Some defended TVBS by technicality. The loophole was that the law did not restrict indirect ownership, so the Hong Kong Bermuda TVB Co Ltd set up another company, Countless Entertainment, in Taiwan and have this Taiwanese company to buy half of the TVBS shares and the Hong Kong TVB. So in reality, it was 100% owned by Hong Kong money.

Several bloggers argued along the line of freedom of speech. Someone hated Yao so much that he picked on Yao from policy, ideas, public announcements to the choice of his English name (whether you like a name or not, if western parents can name their children with fruits or Arabic/African old tribal names, what’s wrong with a Taiwanese aboriginal name?)

Tim Maddog seemed to be the only one who got the point and quoted Taiwan News. Perhaps Yao’s handling of those issues could be better BUT the real issue was that TVBS was ‘indisputably 100% owned by foreign capital, namely Hong Kong’s Television Broadcasting (TVB)… clearly stated in TVB’s 2004 Annual Report and was acknowledged by TVBS General Manager Lee Tao who said that TVBS is “entirely owned by Hong Kong capital” during his “2100” nightly talk show.’

Dr. Billy Pan pointed out that the founder and owner of TVB, Shaw, had a good relationship with the Beijing government and the then president, Liang, was the Chair of Hong Kong Broadcasting Authority. This position is appointed by the Hong Kong Governor who is dominated by Beijing. In May 2008, Hong Kong TVB was sold to a Chinese businessman. There is no free press in China and their media outlets serve as government mouthpiece. So what would they do to the Taiwanese audience?

Yao was under more attacks after he refused to approve the transfer of ownerships of BCC, CTV and Chunghwa Telecom’s MOD from KMT to private buyers until they explained on changes in their share structures and the name of the person in charge and whether they have expelled political, government and military figures the media organisations. He asked the Jung Li Investment Company to explain how it had financed the purchase since the company’s registered capital was significantly smaller than those outlets.

If Yao’s actions were really that detrimental to freedom of speech in Taiwan, how did Taiwan’s rating by Freedom House on press freedom get to the top in Asia the following year?

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