2007年6月5日 星期二

Dishonest arguments threaten media idea

By Chen Ping-hung 陳炳宏

Thursday, Jan 10, 2002 Taipei Times

The Alliance for the Democra-tization of Terrestrial TV (無線電視民主化聯盟) has proposed nationalizing both Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV, 台視) and Chinese Television System (CTS, 華視) in the hope that Taiwan might thereby create greater room for public debate. Careful analysis, however, suggests that there is precious little chance of that happening. People with ulterior motives have rushed to attack the policy in three ways, so much so that some media have even claimed that the issue of nationalization of media organizations is already dead.

Of the three forms of attack used by opponents of nationalization, the first is vilification. Scholars and experts who have advocated the policy have been dubbed "hack scholars" or "hired guns for the ruling party." Their motives have been questioned and the proposal vehemently opposed. All scholars and experts who support the idea have been painted as "pro-Chen Shui-bian" (陳水扁). The issue has thus been deprived from the very beginning of a level platform for public debate. Such vilification tends to silence proponents of an idea and finally causes it to "disappear naturally."

The second approach to killing the proposal has been politicization. The strategy is to condemn every policy proposed by the ruling party as a ploy to consolidate the ruling party's hold on power. In the TTV-CTS issue, the nationalization idea is portrayed as the ruling party's excuse for postponing the withdrawal of political parties, government and military from media institutions. The implication is that the ruling party wants to maintain its grip on terrestrial TV. Then, to rally opposition forces, suspicions are raised about the true motives behind the ruling party's policy. This strategy is also very effective. Some media have accepted the politicized argument. But what has been ignored is that a consensus exists on the withdrawal of political parties, government and military from the media. The question now is whether the two media organizations should be nationalized or completely privatized.

The third and final method of destroying the nationalization proposal has been sanctification. This means deliberately exaggerating the claims of nationalization proponents, before discrediting those claims with questions about details that supposedly prove the policy is not viable. In the TTV-CTS issue, opponents of nationalization have first deliberately portrayed the proposal as an intended cure-all for Taiwan's terrestrial television. Then, by arguing that nationalization cannot stop the vulgarization of TV programs, they have sought to prove that it is in fact no cure-all at all.

The problem is that nationalization is not aimed at tackling program content. Rather, it is meant to resolve the problems stemming from unreasonable ownership structures. That is why the Alliance has said only that it hopes TV program makers will strive to create programs that reach the widest possible audience. Until Taiwan's media has undergone a fundamental change, who can guarantee that nationalization will raise program quality overnight? If nationalization cannot do it, further commercialization certainly won't. But this is how the sanctifiers raise the goals of nationalization advocates to ridiculous heights only to go on to shoot them down by exposing that very ridiculousness.

In the process of promoting the nationalization of CTS and TTV, I have come to believe that the best way to destroy an idea is to adopt the three-pronged offensive of vilification, politicization and sanctification that has been used against this proposal.

Translated by Francis Huang

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