Our Public Television Service is not Your Public Television Service
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 24, 2013
Summary: We do not need the wisdom of Solomon. Most people can see the truth with their own eyes. Two factions are fighting over the Public Television Service (PTS), but neither cares whether the infant lives or dies. The facts are inescapable. PTS is being smothered in the struggle. It is on the verge of suffocation. Yet neither party is willing to let go. No one is even waiting for a King Solomon to come forth and uphold justice.
Full text below:
We do not need the wisdom of Solomon. Most people can see the truth with their own eyes. Two factions are fighting over the Public Television Service (PTS), but neither cares whether the infant lives or dies. The facts are inescapable. PTS is being smothered in the struggle. It is on the verge of suffocation. Yet neither party is willing to let go. No one is even waiting for a King Solomon to come forth and uphold justice.
The selection process for the Public Television Service Board of Directors has dragged on for over two years. Why? Because two ersatz mothers are fighting over who will be on it. Both claim to love the infant more than the other. Both claim to be more qualified to care for it than the other. Both find excuses to stonewall and complain. Neither hesitates to suffocate the infant in order to express their love. This sort of "love" makes one's skin crawl. Besides, the Public Television Service is the property of the people as a whole. It is ours. It does not belong to either would be mother. It definitely does not belong to them.
The PTS farce is a case of wrangling over non-existent "ownership." The means have become the ends. That makes the wrangling even more morbid. The Blue and Green factions ignore the raison d'etre for the Public Television Service channel. Just what has the Public Television Service provided the public with at the government's expense? They don't bother to aks. What goes on in the tall and majestic PTS headquarters building? They don't care. All their attention is focuses on keeping people they dislike off the board. This has prevented PTS from resuming normal operations. This has delayed the selection of a PTS board of directors by over seven hundred days. Are the Public Television Service Committee Members so politically backwards? Does this wrangling mean Taiwan does not deserve public television?
President Ma was re-elected less than a year ago. Yet the DPP has twice tried to have him impeached. The stillborn Public Television Service Board of Directors is a microscosm of the political battlefield that is today's Taiwan. The annual budget for the Public Television Service is merely 10 billion NT. Its ratings are a measly 0.2%. Yet the ruling and opposition parties persist in fighting over over this, tooth and nail. They have dragged the two camps' communication experts into the battle. PTS is a small scale public institution. Can a reasonable democratic solution be found to the problem? Taiwan has undergone three decades of democratization. Has it really all been for naught?
Consider the problem at the systemic level. No agreement has been reached regarding the Public Television Service Board of Directors, for two reasons. One. The three-fourths majority threshold for the approval is commissioners is too high. Two. The requirement that commissioners represent political parties, based on proportional representation, is unreasonable. Consider the former. based on the ruling and opposition party composition in the legislature. If the threshold were changed to a simple majority, it might be more reasonable. Why? Because the threshold to impeach a president is a mere two-thirds super majority. Currently a mere three nay votes can bring the entire selection process to a grinding halt. The high threshold merely enables a minority to engage in obstructionism.
Consider the latter problem. Observers disagree about how to improve the process for selecting commissioners. But all agree about one thing. Nominations by political parties based on proportional representation should be abolished. Nominations by political parties based on proportional representation was intended to best reflect public opinion. Who knew it would merely replicate ruling vs. opposition party rivalry inside the commission? Who knew that politics would trump professionalism? The same problem raised its ugly head inside the National Communications Commission (NCC). It too, led to a stillborn commission. Seven years ago, the ruling and opposition parties agreed to modify the Organic Law. It was changed to nomination by the Premier. Legislators were granted the right of approval. The threshold was set at a simple majority. The system of proportional representation was abandoned. NCC reform should become the template for Public Television Service reform.
PTS as a TV channel receives less than one billion NT in annual funding. It is nothing like the NCC, which has decision-making powers. Its directors are nominated by the Minister of Culture. Therefore having the legislature approve their nominations strikes us as overkill. Lung Ying-tai advocates having the Ministry of Culture preside over commissioners who would elect the board directors. Either that, or it should add another step to ensure balance. For example, some balance should be required regarding the political coloration of board nominees. This should be taken into account.
In any event, the process of selecting the Public Television Service Board of Directors has dragged on for over seven hundred days. It cannot be delayed any longer. The goal must be a normally functioning PTS for the public. The solution can be two-pronged. The first prong is ruling and opposition party consultation along the NCC model, leading to an amending of the law, the abandonment of nominations by political parties based on proportional representation, the lowering of the threshold for approval, and a reduction in the number of directors. The second prong is to listen to suggestions from media reform groups. Allow the dozen or so new directors to take office now. End the farcical fourth session of the board, which has been prolonged for over two years. Allow PTS operations to get back on track. This should be the authorities' top priority.
It matters not whether we have a King Solomon. The public on Taiwan must be aware. Two ersatz political mothers are fighting over a TV channel that belongs to the people as a whole. It is our infant. Do not allow them to trample it under foot. Commercialism is rampant. Content has been vulgarized. How should social resources be invested to enhance public television growth and visibility? Contemplating these questions beats sitting by as this intolerable farce drags on.