2007年6月5日 星期二

Leadership shift would improve TV reception

Chung Chi-hui and Chen Ping-hung 鍾起惠、陳炳宏

Thursday, Jun 29, 2000 Taipei Times

The public has long demanded that the government and military relinquish their ownership and control of TV stations. Despite the change in ruling parties, the new administration's logic in choosing the board of directors for the stations seems identical to that of the KMT -- the positions are given as political rewards. The new administration has failed to facilitate the forging of a healthy station management system.

Will ownership of public television truly be returned to public control? Television in Taiwan is increasingly leaning towards powerful economic and political forces, but a wider range of viewpoints should be heard. The government should establish an oversight committee to review and reissue TV licenses.

The next thing the government should do is return ownership of TV bandwidth to the state. There are two main ways to distribute bandwidth while keeping control in state hands: auctioning off the bandwidth or doling out channels based on a committee vote. Regardless of the distribution, it should be handled by an independent public-interest commission that chooses qualified entities to run the channels.

The government should also ensure the quality of shows by subsidizing programming that serves minority interests or by supervising programming. This is the policy of countries such as the UK, France and Germany. The distribution of channels to private operators may help to realize the public interest in TV.

The nationalization of TTV (台視) and CTS (華視) is not the way to balance the political parties' control of stations like CTV (中視) and Formosa TV (民視). In the future, digitalization will permit programming to go on broadband networks. This will solve the problem of the shortage of channels for public programming, but could risk owners monopolizing the broadband networks. It is still important, therefore, for the government to regulate stations.

Theoretically, structural controls over the industry should have an affect on the content of shows, but the producers and viewers should in most cases remain the ultimate judges of program content. Regardless of whether a station is publicly or privately owned, program quality is the goal.

Program production is a highly specialized business. Most of the Public Television Service's (公視) news and drama shows are still made using old-fashioned production methods, resulting in lower-quality programs than that of Japanese commercial television. This shows that a change to public ownership of stations will not of itself improve the low professional standards of the people working in these stations.

A look at the history of the development of the broadcasting industry reveals the marks of government and military control everywhere. In Europe, public stations were established before commercial stations were allowed on the air, yet the programming of the commercial stations is of a higher quality than that of public ones. This shows that the commercialization of the industry does not necessarily drive down quality and also that public stations do not alone fully serve the public interest. In Taiwan, station producers and managers do not pay enough attention to the public interest, while viewers are used to low-brow programming.

We agree that the new administration should rationally regulate broadcasting resources and supervise operators. More debate is needed, however, for a consensus to be reached about the public ownership of TV channels and the public service content of programming.

Chung Chi-Hui is an associate professor in the journalism department of Shih Hsin University. Chen Ping-hung is an assistant professor in the Graduate Institute of Mass Communications, National Taiwan Normal University.

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