Friday, February 06, 2009

No Communication Commission

The National Communication Commission (NCC-
國家通訊傳播委員會) was established on February 22, 2006 under the pretense that it would regulate the information, communications and broadcasting industry. The NCC claims to be an independent agency; however it is a part of the Executive Yuan and its members are appointed according to the ratio of the legislative seats held by each party. Since the legislature has always been dominated by the KMT, the NCC has been nothing more than a tool for the KMT in silencing opposing voices. The latest report by the NCC, which was then followed by proposed draft regulations, puts into serious question the effectiveness and impartiality of the agency.

Statistics released on Monday (2/2) by the NCC show that Da Hua News (
大話新聞) received the most complaints from TV viewers about its content and statistics, while Boss Talk (頭家來開講) came in second. Amongst pan-green viewers, both shows are highly popular and allow the opportunity for some alternative programming and news. These two shows are in sharp contrast to the shows regularly seen on blue stations such as TVBS, CTI (中天), ETTV (東森), or ERA (年代). The NCC claims that complaints included shows inviting pundits who had no background in finance or economics that gave "inflated" or "false" statistics about the economy and made "sensational remarks" without citing evidence. The NCC did not provide any specifics, but it's safe to assume that the NCC probably did not check financial or economic backgrounds of the TV viewers that lodged the complaints. Sort of makes a difference if the person complaining has two PHDs or is just a viewer with an opposing political view.

The NCC said that last year it received about 1,300 complaints concerning public broadcasts. More than 1,100 of them dealt with TV programs. Amongst the cable news channels, according to NCC numbers, SET News (
三立新聞), ETTV News (東森新聞) and CTI News (中天新聞) received the most complaints. SET, which happens to be one of the two pan-green channels, had more than 60 complaints. ETTV and CTI had 31 and 20 complaints respectively. The NCC did not make public the nature of the complaints.

Using these complaints as an excuse the NCC on Monday (2/2) approved a draft amendment to the Satellite Radio and Television Law (
衛星廣播電視法). The proposed amendment plans to set stricter regulations on TV news and comments during talk show programs. The NCC said news and talk shows must "follow fact-checking procedures and the principles of equality." Under the new law, channels would be required to remove programs if they were decided by the KMT, sorry, NCC to have repeatedly broken the law. The original law previously penalized both channel and cable TV service providers if programs made violations. The new regulations would only have the channel penalized.

One of the only positive aspects of the proposed changes is the plan to limit the use of "placement marketing" or "embedded marketing." Placement marketing refers to the practice of the government, political parties, or the military footing the bill for programs that are in support of a specific government policy or political candidate. The NCC has proposed that embedded marketing be prohibited in news channels and channels for children or young adults. If the amendment passes, TV stations will be required to inform viewers prior to the broadcast if the program is produced or sponsored by any government organization or a specific political campaign.

So basically, a KMT proposed amendment from a KMT dominated NCC must now pass through the KMT infested legislature. Wonder what the outcome will be? The new changes would see channels be fined between NT$400,000 (US$11,800) and NT$2 million. If channels disagree with the KMT's NCC and choose to appeal, the channels would have to present evidence to the contrary of wrongdoing. The NCC has said that no particular program will be targeted, but it does not take a brain surgeon to see that Da Hua News (
大話新聞) and Boss Talk (頭家來開講) are going to be in for a turbulent ride. Former cabinet spokesman, Hsieh Zhi-wei (謝志偉), host of Boss Talk, had said the new changes would not affect the way he speaks in anyway.

From its conception, the NCC has been nothing more than an extension of the KMT media propaganda control mechanism. How can a commission that is based on the ratio of seats held in the legislature be truly independent? If one of the purposes of the NCC is to remove politics from the media, shouldn't we first remove politics from the NCC? Taiwan's once open and free media has already seen the KMT exert pressure and manipulation at the Public Television Service (PTS-
公視), the Central News Agency (CNA-中央社) and Radio Taiwan International (RTI-中央廣播電台). The KMT are in a mad scramble to control all media in Taiwan in an attempt to cover up the fact that Ma Ying Jeou (馬英九) and his administration are completely clueless and lost. Media control or no media control, the Taiwanese have discovered a voice, and this voice can no longer be silenced, communication commission or no communication commission.