Beware the assault on Taiwanese free media
By Cao Changqing 曹長青 Taipei Times Feb 04, 2009,
The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) frequent moves to gag the press have drawn concern and criticism from the International Federation of Journalists and other organizations. The KMT’s moves make one wonder whether the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) might not have been behind some recent “developments” in Taiwanese media.
It was recently reported that the daily political talk show Ta Hua Hsin Wen on SET-TV could be dropped after the Lunar New Year holiday. Regardless of whether this happens, the rumors have sown fear in the media.
With the sluggish economic situation, some media companies may be considering downsizing to save some money. However, Ta Hua Hsin Wen has always enjoyed high viewership ratings and is clearly not losing money for the station. In September, the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) reported that following Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) victory in the presidential election, pan-blue media outlets had gloatingly predicted that Ta Hua Hsin Wen and its host, Cheng Hung-yi (鄭弘儀), would be scrapped. Despite this, the show not only managed to secure high audience ratings, but has also dominated the 10pm programming slot.
Why would there be rumors about a popular political talk show being replaced? This is clearly not something that can be explained by commercial interests. Ever since Ma took power, the direction of the KMT has been clear: Cooperate with the CCP to block any approaches to making Taiwan a normal country. Internally, the KMT has weakened the morale of the pan-green camp by lashing out at an alleged money laundering case implicating former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his family members. Examples include the judiciary’s abuse of power in attempt to deal a blow to pro-Taiwan entrepreneurs and the Democratic Progressive Party’s backbone.
This has led to public insecurity and has considerably cut off all possible financial resources for the pan-green camp, while the KMT has benefited with its substantial party funds. The pan-green camp has been in a position of weakness in the media as there are only a few pro-Taiwan programs that are not afraid to speak the truth and these programs have naturally become a thorn in the side for the KMT.
Recently, reports in Chinese media overseas have said that pro-China Taiwanese businessman and chairman of the Want Want Group Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), who recently purchased the shares of the China Times and CTI TV, is now planning to buy out Hong Kong’s Asia Television station (ATV). It has also been reported that Tsai was by the side of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) when he was unable to leave the Grand Formosa Regent Hotel until the early hours of the morning because of protestors during his visit in November.
Many people now fear that Tsai’s acquisitions of the China Times, China Television Co (CTV) and now Hong Kong’s ATV are being backed and controlled by Beijing.
Reports have said that the Chinese authorities decided one week before the Lunar New Year that they would invest 45 billion yuan (US$6.58 billion) into a mass propaganda campaign around the world, which would entail acquiring media in the West.
From the huge amounts of money Beijing has been investing lately, it is very foreseeable that the Chinese government would be able to interfere with media in both Hong Kong and Taiwan.
If SET-TV’s Ta Hua Hsin Wen really is dropped, there will be more to the matter than meets the eye.
Cao Changqing is a writer based in the US.
Published on Taipei Times Wednesday, Feb 04, 2009, Page 8
TRANSLATED BY TED YANG AND DREW CAMERON