CTi News fined NT$1 million for fake news about farmers dumping pomelos

NCC fined CTi News NT$1 million for false report that farmers had dumped tons of pomelos into reservoir

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(Image from Legislator Lin Chun-hsien Facebook page)

(Image from Legislator Lin Chun-hsien Facebook page)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC) has fined CTi News (中天電視) NT$1 million (US$32,000) for failing to check the veracity of a report last month that 2 million catties (1.2 million kilograms) of pomelos had been discarded by farmers into a nearby reservoir.

During a broadcast of its political news program (大政治大爆卦節) on March 8, CTi News interviewed a man who claimed that 2 million catties of pomelos had been dumped by farmers to rot in the Zengwen Reservoir (曾文水庫). The report also claimed that farmers had not received disaster subsidies.

The NCC today announced that after deliberation, it has concluded that the TV news channel had violated the general principles for verification of information, harmed public interests, and handed it a fine of NT$1 million.

CNA cited NCC Acting Chairman Wong Po-tsung (翁柏宗) as saying that CTi News' live broadcast and interview constituted a news broadcast which had transmitted erroneous agricultural information, and affected agricultural trade, harming farmers' incomes. Wong said that the commission considers the TV news station's failure to follow the general principles of verification of information to be a violation of Article 27 of the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) and issued a fine of NT$1 million.

Wong said CTi News believed what the interviewee had said, without verifying his statement. He said that the station was fined because it failed to implement its editorial system, failed to fact-check, depended solely on the statements of the interviewee, did not carry out a balanced interview, and did not implement proper vetting before broadcasting.

The Paris-based global watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on March 26 released a report detailing China's strategy of controlling information abroad, with Taiwan listed as the main target of China's disinformation operation, and mentioning the influence of Want Want China Times Media Group and the death of Taiwan’s representative in Osaka. RSF mentioned that since China Times was purchased by pro-Beijing food conglomerate Want Want Holdings Limited in 2008, its editorial policy has changed radically.

Tsai Eng-Meng (蔡衍明), the Taiwanese chairman of the food giant, "has never hidden his sympathies with Beijing or his desire to change the editorial line of the media outlets he bought," according to RSF. In addition, Tsai led a delegation to Beijing in 2018 to meet with several Chinese state-run media outlets and was happy to be spotted with Wang Yang, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

The acquisition of China Times was part of Tsai's purchase of the China Times Group, which also includes CTI TV, Commercial Times, China Times Weekly (時報週刊), and China Television Co (中視).