Facilitating Communications Industry Development: The Real Purpose
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 19, 2013
Summary: We welcome the five media industry organizations' critique of
the absurd "Media Monopoly Prevention and Diversity Guarantee Act"
Finally, they have broken their collective silence. Finally, industry
leaders are standing on the front lines. They know the media on Taiwan
has been reduced to non-competitive small and medium enterprises by
over-regulation and populist law-making. They feel the danger in their
hearts. They can no longer remain silent. The Ma administration has lost
its compass. The legislature has been hijacked by populism. Are these
media industry organizations' voices loud enough to be heard? We will
have to wait and see.
Full Text below:
The "Media Monopoly Prevention and Diversity Guarantee Act" is a textbook case of "populist law-making." In April of this year, the National Communications Commission (NCC) sought approval of this law in the Legislative Yuan. The Legislative Yuan Transportation Committee and DPP version, differed from the KMT version. Preliminary review of the proposed legislation was rushed through ahead of the recess. Last week, during an emergency session called at the DPP's insistence, it was classified as priority legislation.
The proposed legislation is narrowly focused and highly controversial. The executive and legislative branches remind one of street racers playing a game of "chicken." Scholars in the relevant fields were not consulted while the legislation was being drafted. The views of media professionals in particular, were ignored. The Legislative Yuan sought only to expedite its passage. It merged different versions of the proposed legislation into a grotesque hodgepodge. Yesterday, five major media industry associations, including the China Press Institute, Taiwan Media Watch, the Republic of China Media Self Regulation Association, the Republic of China Broadcasting Association, and the Taipei Newspaper Association issued an unprecedented joint statement. They denounced certain provisions within the "Media Monopoly Prevention and Diversity Guarantee Act." They said these provisions were outside the NCC's legal authority. They consider them a serious violation of freedom of the press. These provisions also violate the basic spirit of Article 11 of the Constitution, which protects freedom of speech.
Let us summarize their joint declaration, which makes two points. The first point pertains to the print media, to newspapers and magazines. These are not under the jurisdiction of the NCC. Yet the draft legislation included the print media, even though it is not subject to NCC regulation. It treated them as if they were the broadcast media. It demanded that they provide information about their operations to the NCC on an annual basis. It demanded that national dailies establish newsroom conventions. It demanded that print media with a certain level of capitalization appoint outside boards of directors. It demanded that the print media "not engage in unfair competition." Otherwise the NCC would intervene and impose fines. The above demands exceed the NCC's legal authority, and may have had a chilling effect on media freedom. The second point pertains to numerous media regulations. Their definitions are vague. The media cannot understand them. They cannot tell if they are in violation of them. This has a chilling effect on media freedom. The NCC may use these to suppress freedom of the press. Therefore the media is concerned.
Allow us to sum up the concerns of these five major media industry organizations. In fact, their concerns are merely a small part of a highly controversial media anti-trust law. Think back to the initial deliberations over the proposed legislation. Consider the latest developments in Internet media. One can use to Internet to access all variety of media. One can even publish information on one's own websites. Yet Executive Yuan Political Affairs Committee Member Chang Shan-cheng publicly attacked an alleged "media monopoly" in today's multimedia era. This is clearly a phony issue. Is the "Media Monopoly Prevention and Diversity Ensurance Act" really necessary? Shouldn't the authorities consult experts, instead of dancing to the tune of mob sentiment?
The NCC is the responsible national authority. Those in the know include PFP Legislator Lee Tung-hao and other media scholars. They feel that the primary purpose of the NCC was established at the outset, in the "Basic Communications Law." The NCC's raison d'etre was to "take into account technological convergence, in order to promote the sound development of the communications industry." But ever since the NCC's inception, it has done nothing of the sort. First it launched a "no nit too small to pick" campaign of harassment against the broadcast media. Then it hopped on the media anti-trust bandwagon, all in the name of "safeguarding media diversity and professional autonomy." In reality, its interventions were motivated by the desire to expand its powers, and to clamp down on the print media. On the other hand, confronted with today's Internet technology, accelerated information convergence, and the need for international competitiveness and a voice in the communications industry, the NCC has accomplished nothing. The Control Yuan has failed to correct NCC negligence and omissions. Shouldn't the NCC improve its media management and control, as well as promote industry development?
Take a closer look at how the NCC has approached its two statutory mandates. The NCC has done too much in one area, but nothing in the other. The crux of the problem is common to all executive branch agencies. They have some idea about how to oversee an industry. But they have no idea whatsoever how to encourage an industry or to promote industrial development. The information industry on Taiwan had plentiful high-tech industry support. It should have been able to flex its muscles in the Internet era. Instead, information convergence left it in the dust. It has lagged far behind South Korea. It has even lagged behind the Chinese mainland. Its competitiveness ranking has declined. This is what the Ma government should be worrying about. How can the NCC allow itself to be distracted by other matters, and not think about how to catch up?
In sum, we welcome the five media industry organizations' critique of the absurd "Media Monopoly Prevention and Diversity Guarantee Act" Finally, they have broken their collective silence. Finally, industry leaders are standing on the front lines. They know the media on Taiwan has been reduced to non-competitive small and medium enterprises by over-regulation and populist law-making. They feel the danger in their hearts. They can no longer remain silent. The Ma administration has lost its compass. The legislature has been hijacked by populism. Are these media industry organizations' voices loud enough to be heard? We will have to wait and see.