Government Information Office Minister Pasuya Yao (姚文智) and lawmakers blamed each other yesterday for causing the government to fail in realizing its promise to withdraw political and military sectors from local media by yesterday.
It is wrong for certain lawmakers to lay the blame on the GIO, Yao claimed, because the office had rendered the draft bill regarding release of government-controlled shares in two terrestrial television companies - Chinese Television System and Taiwan Television Enterprise Ltd. (TTV) - to the Legislative Yuan as early as June last year.
"Lawmakers' delay in reviewing the draft bill is the main cause the government's promise was not realized," Yao contended, in response to Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and other lawmakers' argument that he should accept full responsibility for the overdue policy.
In response, the legislative speaker challenged that "It is strange to claim that the Legislature must shoulder the entire responsibility for the failure, since the administration could not stick to its viewpoint during the legislative process of reviewing the bill."
Wang and other legislators, including Lee Yong-ping (李永萍), Diane Lee (李慶安) and Joanna Lei of the pan-blue alliance and pan-green Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Tseng Tsahn-deng, believed that Yao was the main reason for the failure to pass the bil by yesterday's deadline.
It was Yao who overturned a previous legislative consensus last Thursday about organizing a team (based on seat allocation each party held in the legislature) to review the sale of state-owned stakes in the two terrestrial television stations, leading lawmakers to fail to advance the review of the draft in time, they asserted.
The failure of legislative passage of the draft bill was deemed by chairmen, general managers, as well as other board members of the CTS and TTV representing the government's stakes, as the major reason why President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) directive that all government agencies, political parties and military relinquish control of local media bounced.
These top officials unveiled the opinion in a written statement released Sunday evening when they announced their resignation from government-appointed posts en masse to show support for the president's pledge to reform the media.
President Chen Shui-bian made the pledge to reform the media as early as his presidential campaign in 2000. Three years later, the DPP government unveiled the reform-oriented vision of withdrawing political and military influences from local media in February 2003. By the end of the year, lawmakers endorsed the vision by passing an amendment to the Broadcasting Act, stating that the goal must be reached by yesterday.
Before Yao assumed power as GIO minister on March 14 this year, his predecessor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) submitted the draft bill regulating release of government stakes in the CTS and TTV to the Legislature in June last year.
In that case, the two terrestrial television companies should have been able to accomplish the goal with plenty of time, the incumbent GIO minister defended.
"To sum up, all records suggest that the goal should have been realized long before I took over the post (in March)," Yao said when he challenged the legislative efficiency.
The GIO minister tackled Legislative Speaker Wang and the lawmakers' blame
for his overturn of the legislative agreement last week by claiming the GIO had made only one change during the legislative screening process, which was that it proposed the CTS move its headquarters to southern Taiwan to improve a regional balance of media industry development nationwide.
Scholars and members of several civil groups made up of journalists and media workers issued a joint statement late yesterday to reveal their view that both the lawmaking body and the cabinet ought to be held responsible.
Every GIO minister under the DPP administration repeated their vow to push for media reform, but the government even failed to fulfill the promise of taking this first step of eliminating political and military influence from the media, the civil groups criticized.
They suggested the DPP government might lack sincerity, despite President Chen having reiterated the media-reform goal in his National Day message this October.
The civil groups also observed former ruling party Kuomintang's act of selling its three media companies by the deadline yesterday. They argued that the KMT also lacks sincerity in achieving its goal, or it would not have concluded the sale on the last day of the deadline. The civil groups also said KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) deserved to think deeply about the recent sale as it didn't safeguard his employees rights and welfare. The sale sparked a protest by Central Motion Picture Corporation employees.