2018年4月21日 星期六

Media ownership and democracy

Chen Ping-hung 陳炳宏
Sat, Apr 21, 2018 Taipei Times

I have lost count of how many times the proposed amendments to the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法) that would repeal the ban on the government, political parties and the military from investing in the mass media have come and gone in the legislature over the years. Although the pan-blue and pan-green camps have a longstanding consensus and although there has been yet another transition of government power, the amendments have not been passed.

This is not an issue about investment approach or shareholding percentages. What matters is that the proposed amendments go against democratic ideals and highlight the selfish motives of those in power, and this is why the articles cannot be abolished.

Putting aside the principle that the radio waves belong to all citizens, it is a basic democratic requirement that the government, political parties and the military should not to be involved in the operation of broadcast media. The idea is simple and should be understood by everyone: The supervised should never own its supervisor.

Think about it: If the government, which, of course, should be supervised, can own the media that supervises it, would this still be a democracy?

One cannot help but wonder whether the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was playing politics or if the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was just plain dumb when the act was amended in 2003: Article 5-1 was added to prohibit the involvement of the government, political parties and the military in media businesses — the so-called “party, government and military clauses” — but not a single word was deleted from Article 5, which allows the government to establish media outlets.

Article 5-1 stipulates that, “[the] government and political parties, as well as foundations established with endowments provided by them, and those commissioned by them, may not directly or indirectly invest in privately operated radio/television businesses.”

However, Article 5 states that, “[those] established for specific purposes by the government in the name of the government are publicly operated radio/television businesses.”

On closer look, one can see that barring the government, political parties and the military from investing in privately operated media businesses in Article 5-1 has very little to do with Article 5, which allows the government to establish publicly operated media businesses.

However, juxtaposing these two articles reveals a fundamental contradiction between the two.

After the 2003 amendment, the government is not allowed to invest in privately operated media businesses, but it can still set up a publicly operated media business for a specific purpose. Hakka Radio, which was launched in June last year, was set up by the Hakka Affairs Council in accordance with Article 5.

In other words, even if Article 5-1 is deleted, the government can still own media businesses based on Article 5, and as long as Article 5 stays, the “party, government and military clauses” are a non-issue and nothing more than a trick played by the DPP and the KMT.

Deleting only Article 5-1, but keeping Article 5 intact would allow the government 100 percent ownership of media businesses: This kind of amendment does not make any sense, nor does it comply with the goal of having the government, political parties and the military pull out of media.

The constant calls to amend these clauses show the irrationality not only of Taiwanese society, but more so the legislature. Al political parties and factions tolerate the continued existence of Article 5 for selfish reasons because they want to maintain control of the media once they are back in power.

With business circles pushing the issue, no one is taking a serious look at the party, government and military clauses. No matter which party is in office, it only wants to amend Article 5-1, so as to please the big corporations while keeping Article 5 unchanged for its own benefit. This is unreasonable.

Article 5 should be deleted. Fifteen years after Article 5-1 was passed, the Hakka Affairs Council was still able to set up Hakka Radio, while the future of Hakka TV remains unclear. Abolishing Article 5 is more urgent than abolishing Article 5-1.

Article 5 has allowed the government to establish Hakka Radio and keeping it will allow it to set up a TV station for women or for elderly people because it serves a “specific purpose.” Is this reasonable?

After Article 5 is abolished, a sunset clause or a different operational mode could be designed for the seven state-run radio stations, such as the Central Broadcasting System and the Police Broadcasting Service. This will require listening to a wide range of opinion, and it is something that must be done.

I sometimes joke that the people working at National Education Radio are a pitiful bunch.

When political power shifted from the KMT to the DPP on May 20, 2016, the first thing they had to do after getting out of bed that morning was to change their stance on the 2019 curriculum guidelines for senior-high school social studies courses and start opposing it instead of supporting them because their bosses — the party in power and the minister of education, who takes direct charge of the station — had changed that day.

Last but not least, Article 5-1 should be retained because it puts democratic ideals into practice. As long as regulations are amended so that they limit shareholdings and the size of investments to avoid having the government, political parties or the military take effective control over media outlets or be directly involved in their management, the same effect as a legal amendment can be achieved.

The act originally stipulated that foreign investors cannot invest in terrestrial radio and television outlets, and this was how that ban was lifted. There is no reason not to make similar changes now.

Those who in the past proposed that the government, political parties and the military should retreat from media ownership and influence have never said that they should not be allowed to hold even a single share.

The main point is that they should not be allowed to control media outlets or interfere with their management, and that they should clearly disclose their holdings.

Chen Ping-hung is a professor at National Taiwan Normal University’s Graduate Institute of Mass Communication.

Translated by Chang Ho-ming

From:Taipei Times:Media ownership and democracy(Chen Ping-hung 陳炳宏)

2018年4月12日 星期四











2018年2月1日 星期四










2018年1月22日 星期一











2017年10月16日 星期一








除前述建議外,其實筆者最想分享的是有關台灣公共報業的想像。公共報業倡議者常以英國《衛報》(the guardian)作為典範。創立於1821年的英國《衛報》,在1936年時的經營者為讓該報財務與編務的獨立與自主得以永續確保,決定將其交由信託公司經營。80年後(2016年)《衛報》在英國每天印行16萬2千份紙本報紙,若加上線上讀者(排名世界第五大線上報紙),每天約有900萬英國人及4260萬全球讀者在閱讀《衛報》,其對英國民主的貢獻與世界的影響都很大。






2017年10月10日 星期二

Public media need consolidation

Chen Ping-hung 陳炳宏
Tue, Oct 10, 2017 Taipei Times

Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) has said that she intends to update the Public Television Act (公共電視法) to make it a “Public Media Act” with a wider scope.
Putting aside whether her vision is achievable, it is worth waiting to see whether she is able to formulate a blueprint that provides a solution to the argument over which is better — small and beautiful or big and powerful — that for so long has dominated the public broadcasting debate.

Every year since its establishment in 1998, the Public Television Service’s (PTS) annual budget has remained frozen at a meager NT$900 million (US$29.63 million).
It might seem prudent to limit expenditure based on the ideal of maintaining a lean and efficient service, but, as the saying goes, even the cleverest chef cannot cook without rice.

Put another way, “small is beautiful” can in reality mean weak and not very beautiful at all.

Compared with the UK’s BBC and Japan’s NHK, which both receive more than NT$200 billion annually, PTS’ NT$900 million pales into insignificance.

What about South Korea, which has a population twice the size of Taiwan? Its public broadcaster, KBS, has an annual budget of more than NT$40 billion — 48 times more than PTS’ budget.

This means that KBS was able to spend NT$50 million per episode on its historical fantasy TV drama The Legend, while PTS could only spend NT$6 million per episode for its period drama A Touch of Green (一把青) and had to drum up private sponsorships.

Most nations place a strong emphasis on so-called soft power. If Taiwan were to pursue a policy of expanding its public broadcasting output, it would not only enrich the domestic cultural scene, but also help promote Taiwan to the world.

The achieve this, the nation could first, increase the production budgets for television programs; second, enhance its media platforms to achieve operational synergies; and third, elevate the public service and cultural duties of public broadcasters.

The reason that size equals strength for a public media organization is simple: The global media industry is in a war of attrition. This is especially true for televisual media, for which a shortage of manpower or capital can be fatal.

The government should put its full weight behind the development of public media and increase budgets to improve their strength and enable them to do more.

This is also an age of group warfare. The nation’s private media companies all provide a full range of platforms, but public broadcasters, although they like to refer to themselves as broadcasting corporations, consist of only three channels: PTS, CTS and Hakka TV, and no radio stations.

The public broadcasters need to expand their scope, provide content across the full spectrum of platforms and build operational synergies to expand.
To increase the footprint of public broadcasting, it is essential that broadcasters operate on more platforms.

In line with Cheng’s statements, the Central News Agency (CNA) and Radio Taiwan International (RTI) should be merged into a corporation that includes television, radio and news.

By drawing upon the strengths of CNA, the new broadcaster would be able to provide a wider perspective to its international news coverage, rather than simply acting as a conduit for powerful global news organizations, whose coverage is often littered with bias.

Additionally, if CNA were able to expand its international coverage to include televisual media, PTS would be able to produce international reports tailored to a Taiwanese audience and no longer have to rely on reports by international news agencies.

Furthermore, if RTI were incorporated into the new broadcaster, it could share the responsibility of providing pro-Taiwan international news with the Overseas Community Affairs Council, which runs the Taiwan Macroview TV channel — something the council has long hoped to achieve.

Merging Taiwan Macroview TV with PTS to produce programs on Taiwanese culture that are broadcast worldwide provides a huge opportunity.

Additionally, why is it that educational programs and traffic reports, which are broadcast by separate state-run radio stations, cannot by provided through public broadcasting? This is a complex issue that requires lengthy consideration.
Lastly, the nation’s various ethnic-minority media should all be provided through public broadcasting.

It is probably too late to turn back the clock with Aboriginal community media, but Hakka media could still be incorporated into a new public broadcaster.
Taiwanese-language TV stations should also all sit under the umbrella of public broadcasting.

It is a constant source of amazement that such a tiny nation has such a huge number of publicly funded media organizations — does it really need so many?

The operating models of the nation’s multifarious public broadcasters are unsustainable. Imagine if they were to be amalgamated into one large and powerful broadcaster tasked with providing a wide output across a variety of platforms, perhaps including a print media division.

Each area of its operations would be tasked with its own mission statement, while the synergies created through amalgamating the fragmented public broadcast media would save considerable public funds — what is not to like?

The history of PTS’ evolution teaches that amending the Public Television Act will be fraught with difficultly, but the fact that Cheng has the political courage to propose a “Public Media Act” is heartening.

Good luck; you will need it.

Chen Ping-hung is a professor at National Taiwan Normal University’s Graduate Institute of Mass Communication.

Translated by Edward Jones

2017年9月30日 星期六