Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is there press freedom in Taiwan, asks NextMedia =UPDATED=


Those of you in academia, NGOs, and on Capital Hill, note this. Next Media is turning up the heat on the government. With the NCC blocking NextMedia's application for a TV news channel license, the battle is now moving to the internet. NextMedia plans to launch there soon to obviate the NCC's obstructionism. Next Media is planning to distribute set top boxes for internet TV distribution which would have all Apple content (see this annual report, p22). Since this plan was made public pan-Blue legislators have lead a charge to regulate internet content, which NextMedia/News in Motion see as a thinly disguised campaign to prevent NextMedia from distributing its content over the internet.

REF: Previous post on the NCC.

UPDATE: See second comment for another view. ADDED: Mark Simon of Next Media says this response is completely wrong, further down.

UPDATE II: IPI from a couple of days ago:
Taiwan’s NCC Refuses Broadcasting License to Next TV, Legislators Threaten Stricter Internet Regulations
IPI expresses concerns about NCC’s failure to promote press freedom

VIENNA, 15 December 2010: More than a year after Taiwan-based Next Media Group requested a broadcasting license from Taiwan's National Communication Committee (NCC), the company has yet to receive permission to broadcast news programs.

Representatives of Next Media Group have informed IPI that in August 2009 the company applied for licenses for a news channel, a general interest channel, an entertainment channel, a sports channel and a movie channel. The NCC reportedly refused the request twice, eventually allowing only the sports and the movie channels to air and withholding the license for the news and the general interest channels.

The reason for the refusal, according to NCC, is that there are “concerns that the channel’s broadcasts would violate the Regulations Governing the Classification of Television Programs.”

In its 8 September 2010 rejection of Next TV’s application, the NCC stated that “doubts remain as to whether the applicant is able to fulfill the social responsibility expected of a television broadcaster.” It also noted that “mass media have a responsibility to ensure that their programming conforms with ethical and moral standards acceptable to the general public.”

According to news reports and talks held by IPI with media representatives in Taiwan, the issue of contention appears to be Next Media’s use of realistic computer-generated animation in support of news reporting.

The NCC, along with many members of Taiwan's media community, has reportedly expressed concern over the graphic content of some of the other publications of the Next Media Group and the fact that the website of the group’s newspaper, Apple Daily, shows computer-generated animations of violent crimes, sexual assaults, homicides and suicides.

Similar animations are also shown on the online news service launched by Next Media in July 2010, where Next TV streams five hours of news programming every day. This led to calls by 20 legislators (19 of them representing the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party - KMT, and one representing the Democratic Progressive Party - DPP) to impose stricter regulations for the internet. The NCC’s Communication Content Department Director, Jason Ho, told the Taipei Times on 22 October that unlike content on TV or radio, the government had adopted a policy of low supervision regarding internet content.

In most democratic countries, the allocation of broadcasting licenses is carried out by statutory bodies, which need to ensure their decision-making independence from government and political or economic powers. The National Communications Commission was established by the Taiwanese government in February 2006 to regulate the telecommunications, information and broadcasting sectors. Similar commissions exist in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

A spokesperson with the British Office of Communications (Ofcom) told IPI that while Ofcom’s Guidance Notes for Applicants allow for refusal of licenses if “the proposed service [is] likely to involve contraventions of the standards for programs and advertising,” as included in the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, this clause has never been applied. “We have never refused a license on these grounds,” the spokesperson told IPI.

IPI Acting Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “NCC’s pre-emptive refusal to grant Next TV a license on the basis of content that may be broadcast raises concerns about press freedom and equal access as key criteria in the allocation of licenses. We urge NCC and Next TV to engage in dialogue and to identify precisely which aspects of Next TV programming may be in breach of broadcasting content regulations so that Next TV has the possibility to selectively remove what is deemed unacceptable or apply for a license under a different rating.”

She added: “IPI believes NCC should encourage diversity of television content and be open to new ways to present information.”

Article 1 of the 2005 NCC Organization Act, states that the NCC “was established to implement the Constitutional guarantee of free speech; […] promote the sound development of communications; preserve the independence of the media; effectively exercise regulation on communications; […] protect the consumers’ interests and respect the rights of the disadvantaged; promote the balanced development of cultural pluralism; and increase national competitiveness.”

In response to accusations of undermining freedom of expression, KMT Legislator Hsu Shao-ping defended the proposal to regulate internet-based Next TV, saying that she was simply doing her job by addressing public concerns over Next TV’s internet broadcasts, which rely on controversial animations that may be unsuitable for certain audiences.
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26 comments:

les said...

Oh, KMT wants it's own great firewall eh? Why am I not surprised...

Anonymous said...

Michael, this is more a commercial dispute over net neutrality than a governmental one over censorship--Next Media doesn't own the telecom channels over which its digital video is deployed, but set-top boxes are a pretty bandwidth-heavy application that competes directly with the telco operator's own content delivery services.

The regulatory dispute concerns telcos' right to block for-profit, third-party bandwidth-intensive applications on their networks. This is an extremely legitimate concern for telcos (especially those in APAC), as average revenue per user for them has fallen by around 30% over the past 5 years while average traffic per user has risen by 5x over the past 5 years. Such trends mean they literally can't afford to maintain the same quality of service, so the telcos are fighting for the right to manage their networks more aggressively in order to remain profitable.

Anonymous said...

Yeah... I really don't think it's a good idea to try to piss off NextMedia... freebie for the DPP I guess.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, anon with the money info, that's the kind of information I was looking for.

les said...

I think it's a serious problem if ISPs are going to start denying access to internet services, especially those that compete with their own. That is a monopoly and it should be illegal.
I buy bandwidth, I want to have access to everything that's out there, simple as that. It's bad enough they throttle bandwidth based on profile.

Okami said...

The 1st anonymous poster's reasoning makes sense. That's something similar to the Level 3/Comcast dispute where Level 3 became the sole provider of Netflix downloads and Comcast cut them out of it's network after their mutual share rate went to 5:1 in Level 3's favor.

I still say that in most circumstances it's far more important to not trust the KMT in such matters. I seriously doubt the KMT is against this because of bandwidth and share ratios of internet service providers.

Anonymous said...

They're right though, Next Media couldn't uphold shit for social responsibility. They're like parasites. That said, if that's the standard you may as well just turn off all local TV stations.

Anonymous said...

No, No, No. Anonymous.. is simply as wrong as wrong can be.

1) The NCC is denying a TV license. There is not one single mention in the denial of license about all this ISP non-sense.

This has nothing to do with net neutrality. The Taiwan government and NCC do not even try that point.

This is all about censorship. Why would they deny a TV license if this was about ISP's. NEXT can go online with any service they want now.

2) Who is Anonymous? This is Mark Simon of Next Media. I would be happy to have a discussion with a person who is shouting out the governments position with such gusto and surety. I am saying this person is trying to do what the government tried to do with the press freedom groups, lie and divert.

Now I know Michael likes a civil blog, but if your taking the governments position and spreading false information you should come out of the wood work.

msimon@appledaily.com

I want to have this debate.

STOP Ma said...

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I see net neutrality (arguably, the most important issue in the realm of communication) has hit Taiwan.

If you respect democracy and value the internet as one of the only entities out there that gives the unfiltered truth, then protect net neutrality at all costs.

Once net neutrality is gone -- the internet might as well be a T.V. cable service.

Unfortunately, most people don't really care enough about this issue -- which will seriously affect how we receive information.

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Feiren said...

Apple and Next Media are by far Taiwan's most influential print media. You can see that for yourself at 7-11 every morning where Apple sells out by 10am while stacks of the China Time and United Daily News sit forlornly (Liberty seems to be surviving).

Apple has also been a consistent and trenchant critic of the Ma administration--especially its China Policy. Because Apple remains apparently neutral (unlike the partisan catering to greens that Liberty indulges in), it is shaping Taiwanese public opinion in ways that are very dangerous for the KMT and their 'friends' in Beijing.

It is not at all surprising that the NCC is denying Apple a license. The ostensible reason is Apple's salacious content and disregard for privacy. While these are fair criticisms, the real reasons are political

Anonymous said...

"Next Media doesn't own the telecom channels over which its digital video is deployed, but set-top boxes are a pretty bandwidth-heavy application that competes directly with the telco operator's own content delivery services."

Okay, so telcos and shutdown Youtube? This is ridiculous; there's nowhere to draw the line. If the telcos can't make money if bandwidth is unlimited and unmetered, then change the pricing model, but they shouldn't be allowed to discriminate based on source. Everyone already pays for pipes at both ends--the consumer and the provider both have huge bandwidth bills.

And anyways, there is already rate-based pricing and people that want faster speeds are the ones that are going to consumer more bandwidth. How is there an issue here?

If a state-sponsored monopoly in telecom wants to also maintain a lucrative content business, well, hey, that's just tough luck. Even if it weren't a gov-sponsored monopoly, a private monopoly would not be allowed to use that as leverage to maintain their content business either. Ridiculous.

SoCalExpat said...

Pity the DPP isn't standing up for freedom of speech here. I guess that's not surprsing given the DPP's own failed attempt back in 2002 to intimidate Next magazine into silence. With the exception of the animation issue, the DPP's claims in 2002 are exactly the same as the NCC's clams in 2010. I must congratulate Apple/Next for becoming Taiwan's most popular media despite being constantly attacked by Taiwanese governmnents green and blue. I guess that's why most Taiwanese can't get enough of their content. Go Next!

Michael Turton said...

SoCalExpat, what 2002 incident are you referring to? The one in which a DPP legislator threatened to sue Next over allegations he beat his wife?

SoCalExpat said...

On March 20, 2002, Chen Shui-bian's Justice Minister Chen Ding-nan (DPP) ordered the ransacking of Next Magazine’s office and the private residence of Hsieh Chung-liang, a Next Magazine reporter. The CSB administration's explaination for the raids was that Next Magazine was endangering national security by reporting on secret expense accounts used to fund spies in mainland China.

Anonymous said...

Next Media should ask Julian Assange ... :)


So far no blogger here in Taiwan have been charged with rape no matter how green or blue their feathers are .

Devic

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, forgot about that one. Except that the DPP's claims are utterly unlike the NCC's claims. Unless you have some weird ideological position coloring your views.

Anonymous said...

Justice Minister Chen Ding-nan

Seriously? I mean seriously? Reputation isn't everything, but have you ever looked into who Chen Ding-nan is?

Michael Turton said...

Chen Ding-nan was awesome.

Anonymous said...

@MSimon

Next could go online with any service they want, but they would simply be transferring the network burden onto whatever company provides that service.

Insinuations aside, I'm neither Chinese nor Taiwanese, nor even interested in East Asian politics, just someone who watches financial/regulatory relationships between media content creators and content delivery networks as part of his job.

@Anon
Not Youtube, those videos are mostly free. Netflix and Hulu are the real targets because telcos view them as essentially making money off of stealing eyeballs away from paid cable while using cable-company owned pipes. Hence development of deep-packet inspection to "tax" any packets traveling on networks from sites that cablecos deem commercial in nature.

Anonymous said...

To analogize, imagine a company owns a toll road and a fleet of delivery trucks over that toll road. Trucks create heavy wear and tear on roadways (much more so than cars) and also take up more space than cars (which can be analogized to web traffic). Along comes another trucking company which wants to use that toll road to deliver things but wants to be charged at the same rate as cars on that road. Now the government is deciding whether the original firm has the right to charge extra or deny access to the upstart trucking firm without a road.

Anonymous said...

Ultimately the question becomes whether the owner of the physical network layer has a right to determine and differentially profit from content on the network. In this sense NEXT Media may do better to just pay on a per-bit basis to the telecom operators or try and buy its own wavelengths or lay its own fiber-optic cable to transmit its tv shows.

Michael Turton said...

Anon, are the telcos "donating" to have Next Media's systems blocked by the KMT legislature? Is money flowing in somehow for this?

STOP Ma said...

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Anonymous,

One of the fundamental elements of the internet that sets it apart from the rest of the media is the fact that everyone is on a level playing field -- that is NOT dictated by money.

For example, I can access big corporate media sites with the same bit-rate as Wikileaks (an entity that does not have the money to compete with these big media corporattions).

The minute you eliminate net-neutrality is the moment that this level playing field is obliterated. News and information will then be dictated (as it was before the internet) by the people who have the most money.

Business models that accept net neutrality can absolutely accommodate this increased bandwidth. It is a straw-man to say otherwise.

Sorry, Michael. This may be a bit off-topic, but anyone who is against this extremely important issue of net neutrality (as this poster seems to be) has to be rebutted.
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Anonymous said...

Actually, business models can't accomodate net neutrality. IP traffic grows by about 35% percent annually, but telco revenues grow by about 8% annually. Hence, average revenue per bit falls by around 27% annually. Also, more and more people want to access content through mobile devices, and it costs a lot more to deliver bits through cell phone towers to an iPhone than it does to deliver it over an ethernet cable to a laptop.

AT&T spent over a billion and a half dollars upgrading its network last year and still experienced such severe service outages due to the iPhone that they now rank dead last in customer satisfaction with network quality. Amongst their iPhone users, bit traffic grew by 25,000x while their iPhone related revenues only grew by 5x. That's not sustainable and unless content providers pay up the telcos can't maintain any decent quality of service at all.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the telcos are donating money to the legislature--if anything, since the KMT doesn't like Next Media already, there's no need to donate in this case. Smart telcos would most likely be donating money to the DPP to ensure the same telecom policies get carried over no matter which party is in charge.

STOP Ma said...

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Anonymous,

If that is truly the case (which I seriously doubt it is), then the telcoms are going too fast for their own good.

Again, net neutrality MUST be protected at all costs -- with proper legislation. If not, the only hope we have left for a truly "global open & free" medium will be lost.

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