Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Media News

Joe Hung in the China Post has a long opinion piece on the crowded newspaper situation in Taiwan and the upcoming bloodletting...

One thing must be clearly understood. Media are subject to the Darwinian law of survival for the fittest, call it the law of the jungle, if you will. Only the fittest of newspapers can survive. Those that lose in the struggle for existence have to be washed out. No government help can save them.

The GIO must have known one biggest trouble afflicting the media in Taiwan is that there are too many of them. Take the Greater Washington area as an example. There is in effect only one newspaper, The Washington Post, in an area with a population on a par with the Greater Taipei area. The per capita income of the former is twice that of the latter, where there are four major newspapers -- The United Daily News, The Liberty Times, The Apple Daily and The China Times which will soon drop out. Simple mathematics dictates the number of papers in Taipei to decrease to two, at most.

Albert Yu, publisher of The China Times, told me 17 years ago the combined circulation of his group was one million copies and he had 6,000 employees on the payroll. He said the group had NT$10 billion in sales. At that time, The Sankei Shimbun in Tokyo, which also operates the Fuji TV network, had a daily circulation of 2.5 million and a 2,500-strong staff. I didn't dare to tell him The China Times was grossly overstaffed and he would be in trouble when Taiwan was in an economic downturn. The United Daily News, I am certain, couldn't fare any better. The Liberty Times was in the red, but its owner Lin Rong-san was more than rich to mind the loss.
Hung's piece has a thumbnail review of Taiwan media history that is quite interesting. Also in the media news, Reuters reports that Hong Kong's Phoenix TV is applying for a license to broadcast in Taiwan.
Phoenix Satellite, a China-focused broadcaster run by a former Chinese military official, has reapplied to broadcast in Taiwan, seven years after being rejected, a government source said on Tuesday.

Hong Kong-listed Phoenix, one of the few non-government owned media companies with limited broadcast rights in China, submitted its application last month, said the government source, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive situation.

It seems pretty easy to see which side of things Phoenix TV will be on. Indeed, a couple of years ago the redoubtable Scott Sommers and I ran into a Phoenix TV reporter at the TVBS demonstration, and she regurgitated a bunch of pro-KMT propaganda. Scott read her the riot act in a breathtaking display of eloquence. But if the media are headed for a round of bloodletting in which only the well-financed survive, surely our local media will be competing at a disadvantage against well-funded foreign firms with larger economic bases....hopefully the government will think twice.


David said...

It really is only a matter of time before one of the English language newspapers disappears. It will be survival of the fittest in a financial sense rather than a quality sense. Unfortunately the anachronistic China Post is probably the most financially sound of the three papers. The Taiwan News is probably the one that will lose the battle.

Anonymous said...

... and it is all Chen Shui Bian's fault for leaving office. It's a shame he didn't get any royalties on the papers he sold. Anti Chen rumor mongering kept a lot of papers in business a lot longer than they shoulda'.

Anonymous said...

The comparison to the Washington DC area is problematic. In the past, newspapers were far more local. The DC area used to support both the Washington Post and the Washington Star. Throughout the U.S. that was common. With the virtual shrinking of the USA and the English-speaking world, more geographically dispersed news sources are available. I can go online and read the Washington Post, the Taipei Times, or CNN with the same amount of ease. In other words, you can't call the DC area an isolated market. The Washington Post competes with English media not just in DC, but in the rest of the U.S. and all over the world.

In Taipei the situation is different because you have not just a Chinese reading audience but a traditional character reading audience. In addition to other Taipei newspapers, how much competition is there? There's teh rest of Taiwan. Perhaps HK? The mainland Chinese papers use simplified characters.

Perhaps rather than simply looking at population size, you also need to look at the number of papers/news sources available in the language. People like to get more than one point of view.

Eli said...

Phoenix, I believe, is partially owned by Rupert Murdock, and has had a somewhat revolutionary impact, in terms of style rather than substance, on media in China. It is also the only media outlet in China that covers news from Taiwan on a regular basis. It's coverage in general is much flashier than most news coverage in China, and lacks the progagandistic, authoritarian voice used by most Chinese news anchors. They also carry some interesting talk shows and their coverage of the Sichuan eartquake was excellent, though I am sure they will do nothing to rock the boat. This means a strongly pro-CCP and pro-KMT outlook.

Anonymous said...

In terms of economic fairness, Taiwan should only allow them in, only if Taiwan networks get access to China. What's the point in enriching one well-connected scumbag over another?

Tommy said...

"It is also the only media outlet in China that covers news from Taiwan on a regular basis"

I don't know... I think that depends on what you mean by "covering news". I have paused many a time at a CCTV channel that was covering Taiwan news from the party's standpoint. I don't think Phoenix is much better really. They usually only cover one side of the news as well, although they may not be as obvious with their propaganda.

Eli said...

That's why I said in terms of style not substance. Also, I never said the news on Phoenix about Taiwan was better. My point was that, at least what I noticed during my last trip to China, was that Phoenix actually had people reporting from Taiwan. And people told me that they got information about Taiwan from Phoenix. So, it seemed to me that Phoenix had more regular coverage of and from Taiwan. I also didn't mean to imply that Phoenix was less propagandistic; I said it doesn't have the same propagandistic, authoritarian voice. And I think there is a very clear difference between the style and tone of the Phoenix anchors and those of many of the CCTV anchors. That doesn't mean they are not spreading propaganda. They are just doing it in a different way.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Old Joe pointed out how the LT stayed in business just because the owner could absorb the loss. If I'm not mistaken the China Times was the only newspaper to survive the period of Martial Law while other publications that didn't walk the KMT party line were shut down and individuals who voiced opposition were locked up. Finance is only one part of the equation.