The bill on the disposal of public stakes in terrestrial television stations yesterday failed to clear the Legislature with ruling and opposition lawmakers blaming each other for the stalemate.
The legislative caucuses will hold more talks next week to iron out their differences on disputed articles of the legislation that are intended to free Chinese Television System and Taiwan Television Enterprise, Ltd. from military and political influence.
Taiwan Solidarity Union negotiators insisted on attaching a resolution to the bill that would require the military-affiliated Liming Foundation to relinquish its shares in CTS, a proposal that met with disapproval from their Kuomintang and People First Party colleagues.
TSU legislative leader Ho Min-hao (何敏豪) said that media reform will never be completed if Liming is allowed to hold onto its shares in the TV station. The foundation has refused to part with its stake in the company, arguing that it is a non-governmental organization and its ownership should not be considered an obstacle to the reform campaign.
KMT lawmaker Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) said she suspected the TSU introduced the resolution simply to disrupt the negotiation process - at the request of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
"The DPP government apparently has no intention of carrying through the media reform plan," Kuo said. "The proposed resolution could encroach on the powers of the judiciary as the Ministry of National Defense has said it may file a suit against Liming."
PFP lawmaker Lee Yong-ping (李永萍) echoed the suspicion, saying she failed to see the link between the legislation and the Liming dispute.
Lee urged the government to honor its pledge to divest itself of interests in media organizations as required by a 2003 legal reform. The legislation bans political parties, government and military agencies from owning stakes in media organizations and allows them two years to comply with the law. The grace period expired December 26 this year.
DPP legislative leader William Lai (賴清德) said his party remains committed to media reform but noted that the effort will be marred if Liming retains its influence in CTS. Lai challenged opposition lawmakers to make known their stance on the Liming controversy, saying the nation's watchdog agency has declared the foundation's shares in CTS as public in nature.
Besides the Liming dispute, the legislative caucuses also failed to reach a consensus on whether to move CTS to Kaohsiung as Government Information chief Yao Wen-chih has suggested.
Yao, who agreed earlier in the day not to insist on introducing the clause to facilitate passage of the bill, said his agency would have to reconsider the issue. The GIO chief added that his plan to relocate CTS to southern Taiwan remains unchanged.
The idea drew strong protest from CTS employees, however.
Yesterday morning, nearly 100 CTS workers amassed outside the legislative compound, blasting the relocation proposal as having been crudely drawn up.
Union leader Chu Chun said that the GIO has no right to make laws as it wishes. The GIO is "throwing live fish into the desert" by suggesting that the CTS be relocated to the south without first consulting professional opinions or surveying the TV industry's business ecology, he said.
Chu added he hoped that agreements reached between management and labor will be included in the bill on the disposal of public stakes in terrestrial television stations so that the rights and interests of TV workers can be protected.
He also suggested that the CTS relocation issue be discussed after the television company's share transfer is completed, adding that he hopes the new CTS management will consult workers in an open manner when addressing the issue.
Yao has said the relocation plan is aimed at balancing information access and cultural development between the north and the south. He noted that the south has always lagged behind the north in this regard.
But CTS labor union members called the idea ill-conceived, claming that its realization would not only infringe upon the rights of CTS workers, but would also drain television news resources and waste taxpayers' money.