“We are gathered here because we are upset that [Want Want China Times Media Group chairman] Tsai Eng-ming (蔡衍明) used media outlets under the group as his own personal tool to attack his enemies. We’re also worried that when the group gets its hands on the largest cable TV service provider, it will be a disaster for the country,” Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) chairwoman Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) told the crowd.Some news reports had up to 10,000 present, but some experienced observers there estimated privately that the number was 4-6000, most of whom were individuals in their 20s. That may not sound like much, but as one smart observer of Taiwan pointed out, 6,000 was the number for the Wild Lily Protests. Another longtime Taiwan observer said that only hundreds had been expected but thousands had turned out. He also noted that it was the KMT's spin-off of several private and public media organs to the China Times Group that has made it easy for WantWant to grab such a large portion of the local media. The event was organized by the Association of Taiwan Journalists. Sept 1 is Journalist's Day.
The ATJ, along with the Campaign for Media Reform, Taiwan Media Watch, the Alliance against Media Monsters and the Youth Alliance against Media the demonstration.
“We are here to demand our freedoms of expression and of media,” Chen said. “We call on Tsai to give up his merger plan with China Network Systems (CNS, 中嘉網路).”
Chen was referring to a Want Want plan to acquire some of the cable TV services owned by CNS, the largest cable TV service provider in the country, that was conditionally approved by the NCC last month.
The merger plan has worried many because the Want Want China Times Group already owns several media outlets, including newspapers, a magazine, TV channels and a radio station. Opponents worry that if Want Want buys CNS’ cable TV services, it may be able to interfere with other media outlets, with the power to decide which channels may be broadcast via cable.
The issue did not attract too much public attention until last month, when all media outlets under the group launched a series of reports accusing the Academia Sinica research fellow — who is a strong opponent to the merger case — of paying students to join anti-merger rallies, which was later proved to be false.
When one National Tsinghua University student, Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), questioned Want Want’s motives, he also became a target of criticism by media outlets under the group.
“CtiTV [of the Want Want China Times Media Group] aired news reports criticizing me 24 hours a day during that time, and each news report could take as long as 15 minutes of air time,” Chen Wei-ting said. “This shows how horrible things could get when a media group has a monopoly.”
The TT had editorialized on the Strawberries here, pointing out that they will come out to act politically if issues of justice and democracy are involved. Thankfully, the WantWant protest has not been smeared as a pan-Green tool nor have the Greens attempted to hijack it. I heard that DPP heavyweight Yu Shyi-kun was there but kept a low profile and simply walked.
The China Post reported that the march was 2,000 as did the CNA.
It would be great if the march became the basis of a nation-wide boycott of WantWant. The government's killing of the ugly eighth naptha cracker project may show that concerted protests can be effective. This is especially true if there is some other profit-related reason to kill a project -- in the eighth naptha cracker project I would bet money that after interested parties ran the numbers they realized that with the rising price of oil the project would be unprofitable, so the environmental movement made a nice whipping boy.* In the WantWant group case, surely the other media groups in Taiwan must be nervous about bottom lines. Perhaps that can be leveraged....
I posted on WantWant's scary behavior here. China Times reporter speaks out on why she quit here. The DPP announced Sunday that it would sue the NCC over the WantWant acquisition issue.
*Although, the tedium of writing so many consonants crammed into just two short words, eighth naptha, must surely have played a role.
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