Strangling Public Television Took Only Three Hands
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 22, 2012
Summary: Lung Ying-tai's "dream team" for the directors and supervisors of the Taiwan Public Television Service (PTS) fell victim to the PTS review board. During two rounds of voting only three directors and two supervisors were approved. Several highly-respected figures from the cultural world were rejected. But Lung Ying-tai need not be distraught. This setback is a setback for everyone. The board of directors of PTS is not the only entity undergoing a difficult birth. Taiwan's democracy, which is seeking to better itself, is also experiencing a difficult birth.
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Lung Ying-tai's "dream team" for the directors and supervisors of the Taiwan Public Television Service (PTS) fell victim to the PTS review board. During two rounds of voting only three directors and two supervisors were approved. Several highly-respected figures from the cultural world were rejected. But Lung Ying-tai need not be distraught. This setback is a setback for everyone. The board of directors of PTS is not the only entity undergoing a difficult birth. Taiwan's democracy, which is seeking to better itself, is also experiencing a difficult birth.
Everyone applauded the dream team. Alas, Lung's nominees fell victim to the review board. Why? One. The review board cares nothing about public perception. Either that, or it is out of touch with public opinion. Two. The three-fourths supermajority required for review board approval is an unreasonably high threshold. Three. The ruling and opposition parties were engaged in a battle of wills. The review board was subjected to excessive political pressure. Lung Ying-tai was also too naive in her political calculations.
A high three-quarters supermajority threshold was adopted for PTS director and supervisor nominations. The argument was that PTS was a "public media" belonging everyone. Therefore it required "high standards." But these provisions were all flash and no substance. For years they prevented the PTS board of directors from functioning properly. They made it impossible to form a board at all. In June, Lung Ying-tai proposed a list of over 20 nominees. By July, 10 candidates had already withdrawn their candidacies. Mainly they felt the review process was unreasonable. They had no desire to butt their heads against a wall. Who knew that even the brave souls who stayed on would also be rejected.
Leave aside the question of how high a threshold is reasonable for the moment. The existing threshold is like a slaughterhouse. It was the product of a candidate review process based on proportional representation. The review board currently has 15 members. Its membership is based on the proportion of seats each party holds in the legislature. The KMT has eight members. The DPP has five. The TSU and PFP each have one. A three-quarters supermajority requires at least 12 votes. Conversely, the slightest pressure can lead to two nay votes and one abstention. This is enough to decimate an entire dream team.
Put simply, the current review board for PTS directors and supervisors reflects the proportion of each party's seats in the legislature. The ratio between Blue and Green is 9:6. In this case, the majority is too small to ensure the outcome. But the minority is large enough to be a spoiler. On the surface these members have academic or professional backgrounds. But they differ sharply in political coloration. They may make decisions based on political considerations. Three members are enough to bring the process to a grinding halt. Tsai Shih-ping angrily resigned from the review board. He could not countenance a minority doing whatever it wanted in the system.
Let us look further ahead. The high threshold enables a minority on the board to sabotage the nomination process. The review board reflects each party's share of seats in the legislature. The result, inexplicably, has been to transform it into a system for spoils sharing. Taiwan is currently backwards. The area in which it is the most lacking, is politics. Proportional representation reflecting political party affiliation merely replicates the same politicized guidance and review process that exists in other government agencies. It merely stifles their vitality. The makeup of the National Communications Commission (NCC) originally reflected proportional representation according to political party affiliaiton. But the approach was found to be unworkable. Several years ago the law was amended and the system discarded. PTS operations have been bogged down for years. Must bad laws prevent needed reforms?
Three hands are enough to strangle PTS. The PTS directors and supervisors review process has underscored the grievous defects in the system. It must be reformed. The arrogance of some review board members who passed judgment on the character of the nominees was something to behold. They showed no respect whatsoever to these valuable members of society. Have these review board members ever considered why they occupy their positions? Do they have any respect for PTS or the public? Did anyone consent to their abuse of power?
Such wonderful nominees. Such an awful review process outcome. This was a huge setback for Lung Ying-tai. It was also a huge setback for the Green Camp, with whom Lung made a secret quid pro quo arrangement. Lung agreed to allow Chen Yu-hsiu to become chairman of the board. This led to tension, concern, and resistance within the ruling KMT. She soon found herself alone in her struggle. In the end, she could only beat an ignominious retreat. She was subjected to a crash course in realpolitik. The candidates were rejected for reasons unrelated to merit. They were rejected because the review process was irrational, and because party thugs were looking after their own interests. The candidates rejected are not the ones who should feel ashamed. Those indifferent to the truth are the ones who should feel ashamed. Those who care only about Blue or Green party affiliation are the ones who should feel ashamed.
The nomination process for the fifth PTS Board of Directors has dragged on for over 600 days. The problem will not be remedied overnight. The high threshold for PTS directors and supervisors nominations must be changed. The seats must no longer be allocated according to the proportion of seats held by each political party in the legislature. The review board must no longer consist of political yes-men. The people are indifferent to Blue or Green. They merely want PTS to work. They merely want well made shows. What happened was no the work of the devil. Three hands were all it took to destroy our common dream.
2012.08.22 01:47 am