Thursday, December 11, 2008

KMT Takes Over Public TV

"Taiwan's democracy should not be marred by illegal eavesdropping, arbitrary justice, and political interference in the media or electoral institutions." -- President Ma Ying-jeou, inaugural address

Taiwan news editorializes on the politicizing of the public television (wait until the blog loads completely before clicking on the MORE link). This is a deeply disturbing move, and once again, Ma's inaugural should be read as a 1800 degrees backward road map of the future.


On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Taiwan's restored "former authoritarian" ruling Chinese Nationalist party (Kuomintang) blatantly launched a drive to control the news reporting and programming of Taiwan's Public Television Service Foundation (PTFS), which manages the Taiwan Public Television Service (TPS) on behalf of our nation's citizens.

In an open statement published in Taiwan newspapers yesterday, PTSF Chairman Cheng Tung-liao, PTSF President Feng Hsien-hsien and 13 other executives and senior managers decried the ruling KMT's effort to take direct control over the operation and programming of the TPS network, which includes Taiwan Public Television, Hakka Television and Indigenous Television and the China Television Service.

The KMT's campaign to take control of the public television network was launched last December when the KMT-controlled Legislative Yuan froze NT$450 million, or half of the legally required annual contribution from the Government Information Office, in the PTSF budget for 2008 without explanation.

The Legislative Yuan has refused to release the funds despite incessant attempts by PTSF executives for dialogue with KMT lawmakers and requests for assistance from the GIO, which the PTSF statement said have gone unanswered.

In addition, the KMT-controlled Legislative Yuan tightened indirect influence over the public TV network in October by expanding the review board recommended by the Legislative Yuan to nominate the foundation's directors and supervisors, from nine to 13 members with the appointment of four KMT legislators as "upstanding social personages."

But the KMT openly displayed its intention to impose "complete governance" on Taiwan's public media Tuesday when the legislative Educational and Cultural Affairs Committee and the Interior Affairs Committee approved KMT resolutions that will require the programming of the Hakka Television, Indigenous Television, and the Taiwan Macroview Television Service to be approved in advance by the government agencies "responsible" for these three areas.

The resolutions would give these three commissions the "responsibility" to "approve and monitor" the content of their programs, while a parallel resolution demanded that TPS itself receive the approval of the GIO before its budget could be released, thus giving the GIO the power to similarly "supervise" the TPS's programming.

In addition, KMT Policy Coordination Committee Director and Legislator Lin Yi-shih proposed a draft revision of the Public Television Law that would boost the number of directors to up to 21 compared to the current 15 with the transparent intention of stacking the PTSF board with a solid pro-KMT majority.

If these moves are approved as expected by the KMT-controlled Legislature, the KMT will gain direct control, subsidized by taxpayers, over the entire Taiwan public television network despite the requirement of Article 11 of the Public Television Law which specifies that "public television belongs to the entire body of citizens and that its operations should be independent and autonomous and free from interference."

In the cases of the KMT management takeovers of the state-owned but autonomously incorporated Central News Agency and Radio Taiwan International, GIO Minister Vanessa Shih and other KMT government officials claimed that the CNA and RTI were "state-owned" or that the appointment of KMT-associated executives were made by the boards of the two state-owned media.

However, there is no way that the KMT can escape full responsibility for this action since the resolution was personally proposed by its own party policy coordination director and passed by the KMT majority on the two legislative committees without a peep of protest from the GIO and since the Taiwan Public Television network has never been either a KMT party -- owned media or a "state-owned" media but only received funding as "contributions" from the government.

The PTSF management correctly noted that the KMT's action had "violated the founding values of the Public Television System and the legislative purpose of the Wireless Television Broadcasting Industry Statute."

The Public Television Law itself was approved by the Legislative Yuan "to establish a mass broadcasting system for public service, ensure the autonomous and independent management of the media and to compensate for the shortcomings of commercial television and uphold the freedom of expression and right to knowledge of citizens."

As noted by the PTSF management, the KMT's resolutions "have gravely sabotaged the social consensus that political parties, the government and the military should withdraw from the media," and "gravely infringed on the independent and autonomous spirit of the news media."

The action by his party's legislators has also exposed Ma's campaign promise commitment to refrain from "political interference in the media" as a deception.

We join with the Taiwan Media Watch, the Campaign for Media Reform, the Association of Taiwan Journalists and other media reform organizations in condemning this blatant attempt by the KMT to take control over Taiwan's public media and urge all citizens to participate in the Civic Campaign to Save Public Television by writing letters of protest to President Ma and KMT leaders (



阿牛 said...

Shameless. Terrifyingly shameless.

Mad Minerva said...

I wish I could say that I were surprised, but I'm not -- just appalled at the ongoing trend under Ma.

Anonymous said...

Shameless, and maybe thankfully, I don't think very smart. When you do something this kludgy, what you might end up doing is just pissing off someone with a really big mouth that can call attention to itself. PTS is doing exactly that, and I don't know that they won't be successful in creating a big backlash against Ma.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

That's an excellent piece on a worrying development. I wrote to Reporters Sans Frontieres about it.