National Communications Commission chairman Howard Shyr, 2nd left, during a discussion with legislators about the anti-media monopoly bill. (Photo/Wang Yuan-mao)
The Legislative Yuan recently passed the first reading of a anti-media monopoly act but many have criticized it for its vagueness, while the legislative process has been riddled with scandals related to lobbying and political horse trading. Given such a situation, legislators should act to oppose the current legislation and adopt strict standards to review laws and government policies.
The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party has said that it would prevent media monopolization and would oppose Want Want China Times Group's acquisition of other media outlets. The opposition is doing this because it harbors an anti-Chinese sentiment as the group expands its business across the strait, while it worries that the media group will become a propaganda tool used by China.
The opposition green camp has opposed any positive engagement with China and Want Want China Times Group has therefore become a target of its attacks against media monopolization. The opposition has been obstructing the media group's acquisition and merger plans ever since it launched a bid to purchase the cable TV service China Network Systems, by manipulating anti-media monopoly groups and by pledging to pass the anti-media monopoly act.
But given the high degree of openness in the Taiwanese media market and the media's influence hinging on the choices of readers and viewers, the situation is hardly as serious as the opposition would like to believe. Taiwan is a democratic country and enjoys freedom of speech, making media monopolization in the country impossible.
Let us not to get into whether an anti-media monopoly violates the Constitution as the bill reflects the opposition's ability to make objections without reason. Otherwise, why would the Legislative Yuan side with Lin Rong-san, the founder of the English-language Taipei Times and Liberty Times, a Chinese-language daily, owned the Union Bank of Taiwan? Why would it also favor Daniel Tsai, the owner of the Fubon Group, which also owns several media outlets, with special clauses that reportedly benefit the two tycoons?
While the proposed anti-media monopoly act stipulates the separation of media from financial institutions, the version also provides a clause for the benefit of the Union Bank business group. Meanwhile, the ruling Kuomintang's version has proposed a clause for the benefit of the Fubon Group. If these specific business groups can own a media outlet, why can't Want Want buy CNS and Next Media and why should the rule stipulating the separation of media from financial institutions be applicable to new entrants and not applied retroactively?
The anti-media monopoly act fails to do justice to all media groups involved and it now falls on the general public to monitor the legislature and track the issue.