Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Gov't buys bloggers, says Green Party

Screen capture of page announcing $5000 trip.

The Taipei Times ran a piece on advertorials about China appearing in local newspapers.

Chiang Chun-nan (江春男), a consultant for the Chinese--language Apple Daily, told a panel at the “Democracy Building in Interesting Times” conference in Taipei that the most serious threat to the independence of the Taiwanese media was advertorials placed by China under the guise of news reports.

Chiang said this phenomenon was a concern because China was willing to put ads in Taiwanese media to promote its image, media outlets that receive funding for such placements then “self-censor” their news coverage to avoid embarrassing or angering Beijing.

“[However], independence of the press is more important than freedom of the press,” Chiang said.

The flow of money into the press from political and business circles is bad enough, but China? This move is also evidence of how China has learned to use the weapons of democracy against democracy.

A new dimension to the purchase of journalists was added today when the Green Party accused the government of buying bloggers.

“This government is completely malfunctioning. It not only buys commercial media outlets, now it’s buying independent bloggers,” GPT convener Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said.

Pan told the Taipei Times by telephone that the Industrial Development Bureau (IDB) had invited 20 bloggers on a trip to visit a petrochemical plant in Kaohsiung and an electronic appliance plant nearby.

“The trip was totally free for participants. They received free meals and a NT$5,000 cash award,” Pan said.

“The NT$5,000 for each participating blogger alone costs NT$100,000 of taxpayers’ money and this doesn’t include the cost of hiring a marketing firm to arrange the trip and other costs of the trip,” Pan said.

“Both President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) have talked about ending government placement marketing, but what they are doing is far from what they said,” Pan added.

A Web page announcing the event with details and links to related blog posts confirmed Pan’s comments.

The event Web page said participating bloggers were required to publish at least one blog post of 1,500 words or more and five pictures describing the trip -before Friday to qualify.

Premier Wu Den-yih stated:
Separately, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said he did not see any problems with the practice of encouraging bloggers to write on a subject through subsidies, as long as the blogs were not used as embedded marketing.
I guess paying people to write encomiums to environmentally-destructive state-subsidized dinosaurs is not embedded marketing....technically speaking.

You might argue, on the other hand, that the event is publicly announced so it is ok.. Some of the weblogs had not been taken down and stated forthrightly that they'd been paid:

I don't agree.... the mere prospect of cash from the gov't for blogposts is likely to warp how people write and think about things. This sort of thing should simply not exist. It's completely inappropriate any way you look at it.

Blogger Angela covers the trip exhaustively in pics. The Green Party page on the issue is here. The original web page announcing the event is still up. The MOEA page in response to the Green Party is here. Additional blog posts....


Daily Links:
  • Government mulling civil servant pay raise. It's hard to pin down cause and effect here -- was the tax on teacher and soldier salaries passed due to public anger over the restoration of the 18% interest for Taiwanese civil servants on their retirement accounts? Or did the government push for the implementation of tax earlier than the announcement of restoration because it knew it was going to restore those benefits? And now it is announcing that it is mulling a pay raise for the bureaucracy. Whatever the case, kudos to the KMT for having the stones to finally get that the tax bill passed.
  • AP turns in a great piece on how locals are not exactly enthused about the ROC centennial. Thanks for taking the time to do the background on this, AP, it is much appreciated.
  • Another piece on our falling birth rate notable for its focus on local beliefs, although I wish the negative term "superstitions" had not been used. One man's religion is another's superstition. Also, in other news, Taiwan actually has a Homeless Bunny Protection Association.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.

1 comment:

les said...

Maybe soon they'll start offering people like you hard cash to STOP blogging.