2007年6月5日 星期二

The media watchdog is not a toy for politicians

By Chen Ping-hung 陳炳宏

Friday, Aug 05, 2005 Taipei Times

In the recent spate of reports and commentary on the media, the general conclusion is that the government should push ahead with the formation of a national communications commission, and this will somehow make the chaos that afflicts the media disappear.

This is a failure to see the forest for the trees. In the current confrontational political environment, whether the pan-blue camp or the pan-green camp's version of the necessary legislation to set up a commission is passed, it will still be a disaster for the future of the media. If the two political camps do not abandon their confrontational policies and start laying out long-term plans for the media, even 10 commissions wouldn't make a difference.

The fact that the bill to set up the commission is currently languishing in the legislature cannot be solely attributed to the government's ineptitude or the blue-camp's stubborn and unreasonable opposition. Both are responsible, despite the buck-passing and hypocritical attempts to appeal to the voters.

The government's proposal is modeled on the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but downgrades its status. FCC commissioners are appointed by the US president and confirmed by the senate. Members of Taiwan's proposed commission would be appointed by the premier and there would be no ratification process, by-passing the legislature and any elective procedure.

The reason given for this is to avoid the snake pit of the legislature, which can be counted on to interfere with the operation of the new commission. But this explanation is not convincing. If the commission is directly under the Executive Yuan, then how is it any different from the Government Information Office (GIO)? Wouldn't it be in the same position that the GIO has recently found itself in over the non-renewal of cable television licenses for seven stations?

The current proposal for the commission might be a quick fix for ruling party legislators, but it is unlikely to do them any good.

In theory, the opposition should serve to monitor the government for the benefit of the people, but the pan-blue camp does not seem to understand the role an opposition party plays, and is only able to see itself as the "former ruling party."

Its only purpose is to fight for political advantage, and it cannot be counted on to stand on the side of the people. For that reason, its proposal for the commission is simply anti-government rhetoric. Instead of arguing for elected positions and insisting on greater supervisory authority to allow the commission to better perform its functions, it has simply opposed the commission on the grounds that it wants the membership to be based on party quotas.

To put the best possible spin on it, the pan-blue camp proposal could be called creative, but it is simply not practical. Party quotas for the staffing of administrative organizations are little different from having the parties divide the presidential term between them depending on their proportion of the vote. This is absurd.

And if the commission's members are nominated by parties, then the commission will become a battleground for political capital. Commissioners would only have to fulfill their political responsibilities, and the rights of consumers and television audiences would fall by the wayside.

We cannot expect the commission to serve as a panacea for the nation's media, for whether the green or the blue version is implemented, both spell disaster.

I believe the public should demand its own commission, and not let the politicians get away with their shenanigans.

Translated by Ian Bartholomew

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