On the eve of a Boxing Day deadline requesting politicians, political parties and the military to withdraw from the media, a group of managers from the Chinese Television System and Taiwan Television Enterprise, Ltd. voluntarily resigned yesterday in an attempt to bolster support for the media reform.
Ruling and opposition parties had previously reached a consensus, designed to force the release of party-owned, government-owned and military-owned shares in the television stations, and a media-reform bill was introduced in the Legislature requiring interested parties to withdraw from the media by December 26, 2005.
The bill has not yet been passed, but TTV Chairman Lai Kuo-chou (賴國洲), General Manager Cheng Yu and five other directors, as well as CTS Chairman Chou Jung-sheng and General Manager Chiang Hsia (江霞), voluntarily tendered their resignations on the eve of the deadline.
These industry heavyweights, appointed by the government, claimed that they have always supported media reform, and hoped their resignations would push the government into carrying out media reform policies as scheduled.
The group issued a statement, saying they had decided to resign in order to echo President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) remarks - the president once announcing that politicians, political parties and the military should withdraw from the media as soon as possible.
They urged that the government should speedily select proper personnel to maintain operations of these major terrestrial television companies and to protect all employees' rights. Meanwhile, they urged legislators to iron out partisan differences to push through the media reform bill as soon as possible.
Government Information Office Director-general Yao Wen-chih praised these top managers for handing in their resignations, as he said it proved that the government was serious about its media reform policy. He expressed his hope that appropriate legislation be completed speedily.
In an attempt to pass the media reform bill by December 26, 2005, the government had negotiated with lawmakers and agencies' officials during September and October, he said.
The GIO had also convened news conferences on October 3-4 separately, urging lawmakers to pass the media reform bill as soon as possible otherwise there would not be enough time to request politicians, the military and political parties to withdraw from the media by December 26.
Despite the failure of lawmakers in succeeding to get the bill passed, the managers still resigned in an attempt to prove that the government has never changed its mind concerning reform of the media, he said.
The proposed media reform bill primarily focuses on three terrestrial TV stations: CTS, TTV and China Television Company (CTV). According to the proposed legislation, CTS will be purchased by the government and made part of the public television system while TTV will be privatized.
The GIO repeatedly stressed that more public TV stations were necessary because commercial TV companies were overly competitive and failed to produce a wide variety of quality programming for the public.
Therefore, the government planned to purchase CTS and set up a second Public Television Service, following the foundation of the first Public Television Service (a non-profit organization) in 1998, the GIO said.
If the government successfully purchases CTS, the second PTS will be set up with profit in mind and will solicite commercial advertising in order to prevent it from becoming dependent on subsidies from the television foundation, the GIO clarified.
It is uncertain, however, whether the media reform bill will be pass by the end of the legislative session. Even if the bill fails to pass, People First Party Legislator Diane Lee (李慶安) suggested that the GIO carry out the media reform policy anyway.