2007年6月5日 星期二

TV viewers should use the phone to complain

By Chen Ping-hung 陳炳宏

Wednesday, Oct 27, 2004 Taipei Times

Recently, the Government Information Office (GIO) called China Television Company (CTV) to issue "administrative guidance," expressing concern over what it called excessively acrid remarks on Sisy's News -- a famous talk show hosted by independent Legislator Sisy Chen (陳文茜).

Such remarks could be seen as either significant or not. In particular, the uproar over the renewal of CTV's license just ended, and the December legislative elections are approaching. Things are especially sensitive at the moment, and media watchdogs ought to be careful.

Strictly speaking, government institutions' interference with what happens in TV programs is really not a democratic norm. Despite the fact that there is nothing irregular with the action the GIO has taken, this could lead to some loose talk.

It must be particularly cautious since the show is considered "anti-green." Concern without consideration will cause trouble. In fact, the GIO has been tarred with the brush of being concerned about programs critical of the greens.

Self-restraint, external control and the law can all be used to regulate media topics, but the law should be seen as the last resort. It is also not advisable to expect the media to understand the meaning of self restraint. In the end, one has to rely on TV viewers.

My advice to the GIO would be to exercise caution when dealing with such political opinion programs. First, it is best to avoid sending out direct administrative guidance like this. If this is truly necessary, the GIO can provide evidence of complaints received from the public -- such as the time the phone calls were made, the nature of their reaction and contact numbers -- and collect this information together to send to CTV.

It can also make a record of public reactions, and keep them as references for CTV's license renewal next time. Alternatively, if the public is somewhat reluctant to divulge personal details, the GIO could always inform them of CTV's toll-free service number, and get them to contact the station directly.

My advice to the public would be to make it a habit to express their opinions to the media directly. Do not forget, TV viewing is also a consumer behavior, and every member of the TV audience is a consumer. If this is true for fee-paying cable TV viewers, it is also true for those watching the terrestrial stations, whose channels belong to the entire public.

Those who are unhappy with what they are seeing on the box have both the right and responsibility to pick up the phone and tell the TV station which program they have a problem with. This is every viewer's right, and there is no need to go through the GIO at all.

So next time when you see an inappropriate TV show, I suggest you get on the phone. The viewer, after all, is the most effective TV watchdog. For me, the ideal situation would be one in which, in the near future, the TV audience takes a few tips from US viewers -- who made half a million complaints over the phone when Janet Jackson's breast got more TV exposure than was warranted. I, however, am not that greedy. I would be happy if only 10,000 Taiwanese viewers made that call to complain about something they disagreed with one day.

If the media are to improve, we should not rely on government control, and should look instead to the direct supervision of viewers. Remember to call the media when necessary. The TV schedules in all newspapers have the phone numbers of the various stations' customer service lines.

TRANSLATED BY PAUL COOPER

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