What you need to know
If CtiTV, a pro-Han, pro-KMT media organization loses its permit, its channel space should be replaced with independent media like Taiwan's Public Television Service.
Since the Kuomintang (KMT) had sweeping success in Taiwan’s 2018 local elections, many of us loathed the rise of Han Kuo-yu. What brought him to prominence, though, was fawning, continuous coverage by Chung T’ien TV (中天新聞), notorious for blasting sensationalism and outright fake news into homes across Taiwan. We could see Han’s face on the screen in just about every breakfast spot we walked into during the election seasons.
Ousting Han on June 6 was a victory for Kaohsiung. But many in Taiwan are unaware of another important affair coming up in the same month: CtiTV has to submit its files for a media permit renewal. If it fails to pass the National Communications Commission audit, CtiTV will be banished from Taiwanese cable television.
Perhaps CtiTV knows that the examiners are watching its every move, the channel has toned down its coverage in the last month. Its usual tabloid-like coverage has taken a more neutral turn. During the 10 p.m. slot when every news channel is broadcasting political commentary programs, CtiTV has softened its edges with showings of cute sea otters and aliens instead.
If CtiTV leaves its Channel 52 slot, who will take over?
If CtiTV is banned, it might prompt a backlash from its deep blue audience and Han fans. The pan-blue camp, as well, might frame this as the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s attack on free speech. Resolving the potential outrage could be another challenge for the DPP.
But before this discussion even begins, have we thought about what will replace CtiTV?
In Taiwan’s cable television, channels 49 to 55 are coveted real estate. The media companies with shows on these channels are among the few that turn a profit. If CtiTV is forced off air, many companies and financial groups will be pursuing the channel space.
According to media reports, the news channel market has quite a few contestants, including Gala Television, backed by the Formosa Plastics Group, as well as Fubon Group, which invests heavily in the cable TV industry. Even the tabloid outlet, Mirror Media, has been preparing for a cable news launch. If CtiTV leaves Channel 52, the slot will be up for grabs.
If the CtiTV that is infamous for fake news is gone for good, Taiwan might just welcome another broadcast media outlet that serves either a financial group or a political party. Will the government be able to reject a commercial television from parachuting into Channel 52?
And instead, the slot should be given to independent public broadcasters like Public Television Service (PTS).
BBC World News, for example, often selects several important current affairs to provide in-depth analysis, featuring industry experts and political commentators. BBC’s news channel focuses on quality rather than quantity.
If PTS is given a prime news channel slot, it would not be competing on speed or sensationalism. It would give the TV audiences a chance to see “what news should look like” when they switch between the major channels. Perhaps then, the Taiwanese news consumer will examine other commercial news channels with a higher standard and stricter demands.
No matter the quality or how many awards PTS wins, its influence is limited by its obscure channel number 13, far out of reach on a TV viewer’s remote. We now have a rare opportunity to purchase a piece of land in a “prime location” as CtiTV might be making its exit. Whether we use this property for yet another conglomerate to control broadcasting or for elevating public discourse depends on how the government acts.
TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty, Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)
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