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National Communications Commission Increasingly Disappointing

National Communications Commission Increasingly Disappointing

The National Communications Commission’s (NCC) recent remarks and handling of a staged videotape by a TVBS reporter depicting a local gangster making murder threats against his former boss has been disappointing.
The staged videotape caused a great deal of public uproar after it was aired on March 26th. NCC officials originally stated TVBS was a repeat offender after fabricating another news story that alleged duck farmers were using asphalt to remove feathers from their birds. Officials contended the station could be fined as much as NT$2 million and have its broadcast rights suspended for three months. In a surprising turnabout, however, an NCC meeting held on March 29th found that TVBS was not guilty of violating public order stating that the station’s record was no worse than others in Taiwan. The other fabricated news story concerning the duck farmers was dismissed as it “wasn’t reported to law enforcement authorities.” The end result was that TVBS was levied a fine of no more than NT$1 million while keeping its broadcast rights. This seems to be a clear case of letting the station off easy for some serious transgressions of news gathering ethics.
The public was outraged that TVBS helped a known gangster make a threatening videotape, with most people hoping for the station to receive the harshest of punishments. NCC spokesman Shih Shih-hao, however, came out as saying that the commission would not be swayed by public opinion and that “anyone with an opinion about that should go change existing laws.” He admonished the other stations in Taiwan, saying they should not feign indignant attitudes as they also broadcast the footage of the staged TVBS videotape.
If there are no reforms taken when a transgression such as this one occurs, then they will never be resolved. Investigators in these types of cases often offer amnesty to suspect witnesses for their cooperation in order to land the bigger criminals.In the midst of this past incident, other stations in Taiwan came out on the attack against TVBS. Perhaps this was an attempt to berate the competition, but the harsh criticism levied by other stations for what has been deemed as inappropriate media conduct has served as a public education that will also be used by viewers to evaluate overall media standards in the future. If NCC officials truly wished to solve this problem, they should take advantage of this opportunity to reform the local media. But the NCC inexplicably lumped the other stations together with TVBS, proving that the NCC has no real reform policy or resolve.
When the NCC announced its penalty decision on March 30th, it fined the two TVBS channels NT$1 million a piece while also levying fines from NT$150,000 to NT$400,000 on other stations that broadcast the footage. The profits TVBS gained from ratings of the staged video were substantial, making the NT$ 1 million fine seem light.
The NCC did cite the lack of internal controls at TVBS in its consideration that general manager and program host Lee Tao should be held replaced for failing to meet news standards. This disciplinary decision, however, may infringe on the right of a business to select its own personnel and probably will be contended by TVBS in the near future.
But the problem is not lack of internal controls at TVBS. Have the staged videotape of the gangster making threats and the alleged asphalt use by dick farmers been the only fabricated news coming out of TVBS? On the evening of March 28th, the host of the nine o’clock edition of Speak Your Mind on TVBS made a show of earnestly reflecting on why there has been a breakdown of internal controls at the station, which proved a laughable attempt at best. The program’s theory that “sensational news does not always have to have any proof, as occasionally the story comes out as a true one” just goes to show that the internal controls at TVBS aren’t lacking. On the contrary they are solidly in place as is evident by the news values the station implements in getting its results.
The NCC could have suspended the broadcast rights of TVBS for three months, creating a watershed precedent for media reform in Taiwan. But by citing a lack of internal controls in going light on the station, the NCC has shown it is just another bureaucratic agency with no intention to implement reforms, which is a huge disappointment to the public it is meant to serve.

(This article can also be found on the following website: http://blog.roodo.com/cjliu)

Translated by Steven Marsh.


Updated : 2021-05-18 09:42 GMT+08:00