Academics: reject Want Want bid for cable company

Several of Taiwan’s leading academics have urged the National Communications Commission (NCC) to reject a proposal by Want Want China Broadband to buy out China Network Systems, Taiwan’s second largest multi-system operator (MSO), or cable company. The experts warned that approval of the merger would result in too great a concentration of power in the media, and recommended that the NCC turn down Want Want’s application.
Cheng Hsiu-ling, a professor of Economics in National Taiwan University, and Chang Chin-hwa, a Journalism professor also at NTU, pointed out that Germany’s Media Concentration Committee (KEK) recommends that no single group be allowed to control more than 30% of a particular type of media. They noted that CNS’ current market share is over 20%, and merging with Want Want – which also owns CTI News, a television news station, and the China Times newspaper – would give the group an effective market share of over 140%, far greater than the German agency’s standard.
Rumors circulating in Taiwan have said that approval of the merger could come in July, but the academics called to speak before the NCC strongly recommended that the deal be rejected.
Hsu Chung-hsin, convener of the TSU party, has cautioned that the NCC must check Want Want’s credentials closely to see whether the group’s investors include mainland China. He warned that the proposed deal could be a move by China to gain a foothold in Taiwan’s media and mentioned a Washington Post interview with Want Want chairman Tsai Eng-meng in which Tsai claimed that reported casualties in the Tienanmen Incident in 2008 were exaggerated.
If Want Want were to successfully pursue the acquisition of CNS it would put much of Taiwan’s cable television industry in the hands of two local and one foreign-owned businesses – the Fubon Group which owns kBro and Want Want China, and Taiwan Broadband Communications, which is operated by the Macquarie Group.
The Want Want proposal was tentatively approved by the Fair Trade Commission in April last year and is now undergoing scrutiny by NCC. Three NCC commissioners including the commission’s spokesman have recused themselves from the hearings, which have drawn mixed opinions from a variety of advisors and witnesses. Some media insiders have said that NCC should okay the deal quickly before it has a chance to sour, while others point out that similar proposals can take well over a year to gain approval in other nations. The buy-out of CNS is reported to be worth over NT$70 billion.

Updated : 2021-01-28 21:25 GMT+08:00