2007年6月5日 星期二

Be careful with media regulations and laws

By Chen Ping-hung 陳炳宏

Friday, Jun 28, 2002 Taipei Times

The Government Information Office (GIO) is planning to amend the Broadcasting and Television Law (廣播電視法) and to propose a "mass communication law" (大眾傳播法). In the current media environment, the GIO is perhaps on the right track. As the two measures proceed through the legislature, however, special attention must be given to certain fundamental principles.

First, amendment and integration of regulations governing the broadcast media are not new ideas. The KMT planned to propose a "communication basic law" (傳播基本法) when it was in power. This is a worthwhile endeavor, but must be undertaken with recognition that all media are fundamentally different, so that we can highlight the characteristics of each medium, making distinctive regulations in accordance with those characteristics.

Ownership of the airwaves, for example, should be restricted, since they actually belong to the nation. It would be sensible to limit the amount of foreign capital, or to stipulate maximum shareholding percentages of foreign investors, who should not serve as directors or managers of media organizations. In terms of the management of terrestrial television and radio stations, the media's role of both serving the public and serving as public forums should be emphasized.

In contrast to the terrestrial TV stations, the nation's cable TV stations exist either in a monopoly or in a duopoly market. In drafting the law, therefore, the government must strengthen the restrictions on each cable TV station's maximum market share, the protection of viewers' rights, and community services as well. Terrestrial and cable TV must be regulated differently because of their essential differences.

Because it's unrealistic to ask the media to regulate themselves in today's highly competitive market, the GIO is drafting a new law to cover the industry. Using legal means, however, is never the best way to regulate the media. I would therefore urge the GIO to come up with other solutions. The GIO should think about regulations that will not violate freedom of the press. However, it should also encourage the public to establish a variety of monitoring mechanisms or consumer rights groups. This should minimize the negative impact of such media laws, making other supervisory mechanisms the central plank of the supervision of the local media.

At a time when self-regulation of the media is not an option, and the law is not the best solution, it is only by encouraging other supervisory mechanisms that we can guide the media onto the right track.

TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG

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