Tuesday, February 26, 2013

AP on the WantWant Media Monster

AP's Peter Enav in Taiwan occasionally finds the time to produce longer review articles; last week he came out with a really good piece on the WantWant media monopoly campaign. A taste:
The controversy over Tsai and his expansive Taiwanese media holdings goes right to the heart of the dominant issue in Taiwanese politics: Whether the island should attempt to maintain the separate political identity from the mainland it has maintained since splitting apart from it amid civil war in 1949, or whether it should bow to China's increasing political and economic might and accept its sovereign sway. Taiwanese media, particularly the island's four national newspapers and its seven major 24-hour cable news stations, play a crucial role in the debate, using their columns and broadcasts to promote the competing pro-China and independence agendas of the two main political parties.

The strength of Tsai's pro-China views were underlined in January 2012 when he told the Washington Post newspaper that he unreservedly backed Taiwan's unification with the mainland. "I really hope that I can see that," he said. In the same article he also attacked the widely held belief that Chinese security forces killed hundreds if not thousands of demonstrators during pro-democracy protests around Beijing's Tiananmen Square in June 1989, citing the refusal of a phalanx of Chinese tanks to run over a famously bold protester as evidence of the forces' restraint.

Want Want's own internal newsletter reported in its December 2008 edition that during a meeting in Beijing, Tsai told Wang Yi, head of the Chinese government's Taiwan Affairs Office, that Tsai had acquired the China Times Group "in order to use the power of the press to advance relations between China and Taiwan." The newsletter quoted Wang as saying that if Tsai's company had any future needs "the Taiwan Affairs Office will do its best to help it, including giving support to its food business."
If you didn't read that last paragraph, read it. There's plenty of personal data on Tsai and views of Tsai from other sources, so read the whole article too. Really good work, Peter.

AP's treatment focuses on what outsiders are interested in -- the China's relentless drive to annex Taiwan and Taiwan's resistance to it. But there is another aspect that needs to be remembered: Next Media did plenty of investigative reporting of local politicians and corporations, and Tsai will likely hamstring that.

The day before the AP article, the National Communications Commission (NCC) ruled that WantWant had not satisfied the conditions laid down by the NCC months ago. The Taipei Times reported:
The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday ruled that Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團) has not met the three conditions it set last year for the group’s acquisition of the cable TV services operated by China Network Systems (CNS, 中嘉網路), adding that another administrative hearing would not be necessary.

For the acquisition to be valid, group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) and his family members or associates must completely dissociate themselves from CtiTV’s (中天電視) news channel. China Television Co’s (CTV, 中視) digital news channel, which also belongs to the group, must be changed to a non-news channel and CTV must have an independent editorial system.

The commission said that each condition must be met for the Want Want-CNS deal to take effect.
I haven't heard what WantWant intends to do about it. But last July when they were first promulgated, the food giant rejected them out of hand. It's hard for me to imagine that in a society where big companies routinely get whatever they want, this deal won't go through. It will be interesting to whether and how the NCC will either retreat or be bypassed or simply... ignored.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"It's hard for me to imagine ..."

This is what I'm waiting to see. How long are we going to have to wait for the deal to either go through or really be killed?