Don't believe all the TVBS hype
By Cao Changqing (曹長青)《Taipei Times》Nov 12,
On the plane coming to Taiwan I saw a US report broadcast during a TVBS news slot about the TVBS controversy currently raging in Taiwan. The report was saying that the government was interfering with the press, and that the case was being presented in US universities as an example of how things should not be done. The report also quoted a professor of media studies at the University of California as saying that the government had no business in interfering with freedom of the press.
Anyone who had no idea about the brouhaha over TVBS may well have sympathized with the station after having seen this report, and seen the government in a bad light for trying to exert control over it.
The truth is, however, that the report was no more than a classic example of spin that should itself have been presented as an example of poor conduct.
It's a legal issue concerning the financing and structure of a particular company and whether or not they comply with Taiwanese law. Nevertheless, over the last few days we have seen the station's management"swearing to protect the freedom of the press" to distract attention from the fact that this is really just about the law.
The station is using its own news reports to twist facts, to manipulate the truth, and try to get Americans who don't really understand the full facts to take up their case. In addition to winning the sympathy of the US public, it is also confusing the Taiwanese audience.
There has been no shortage of conflicts between the US government and its media in the past, of which the recent CIA leak case involving Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the New York Times is the most recent. In this case, New York Times reporter Judith Miller refused to disclose her sources, and spent over 80 days in jail for her trouble.
But through all of this, the media said nothing of the US government attempting to curb freedom of the press -- ? the issue was left to the courts to decide. In a democratic country in which the courts are independent, everyone -- irrespective of whether they belong to the government or the press -- should follow decisions made in the courts.
This is not the kind of issue that can be solved by stirring things up, making oaths, or taking to the streets with public stunts such as going on hunger strikes.
TVBS management has even accepted the fact that the company is completely financed by investment from Hong Kong, which is effectively admitting that it's flouting the law, because foreign investment in Taiwanese broadcasting companies cannot exceed 50 percent. This is 100 percent illegal, and serious implications would arise should the government choose not to act.
This is even more the case in view of the fact that TVBS' primary investor, Run-run Shaw (邵逸夫), chairman of Hong Kong's Television Broadcasts Ltd (TVB), is so cosy with the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that he was able to rub shoulders with them watching the military parades at Tiananmen Square during the 50th anniversary of the CCP's assumption of power.
Also, TVBS chairman Norman Leung (梁乃鵬) is the former chairman of the Hong Kong government's Broadcasting Authority, appointed by Beijing's lackey, former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華). Hong Kong lost its freedom some time ago now, and the intervening period has seen the vast majority of businessmen kowtowing to the dictators in Beijing.
This being the case, doesn't saying the company is completely financed by Hong Kong investors imply that it is financed by Chinese investors? Or even by the CCP itself? And to what extent?
Given Beijing's track record in its attempts to secure reunification with Taiwan, and with the kowtowing of Hong Kong businessmen to the CCP, there is every reason to suspect the possibility that money from the Chinese and the communists is finding its way to the Taiwanese press through the intermediary of Hong Kong businessmen.
China has historically been very aware of the importance of controlling the media, and it is very possible that all they need do is give people like Shaw the green light for their investments in China, putting them in a very enviable situation. And these entrepreneurs will return the favor by helping Beijing out on one of their most sensitive issues: the Taiwan question.
Now, with this kind of investment background, how can TVBS possibly deliver fair, objective reports on things like the cross-strait issue and the Taiwanese government?
Cao Changqing is a writer based in New York.
TRANSLATED BY PAUL COOPER
Published on TaipeiTimes
Saturday, Nov 12, 2005,Page 8