Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC) has rejected the application of Chung Tien Television (CTiTV) to renew the broadcasting license for CTi News. The decision in effect shuts down the news channel, whose permit expires on December 11.

Earlier yesterday, seven commissioners reviewed the application and unanimously voted against the request for renewal of its six-year license, said Chen Yaw-shyang (陳耀祥), chairman of the NCC, at a press conference.

“There is very clear and specific evidence” of CTi’s violations, Chen said, pointing to a surge of complaints filed by viewers since 2017. Last year, CTi received more than 920 complaints, about a third of the total for all news channels in Taiwan.

This is the first time the NCC has rejected a permit renewal from a news channel since the agency was set up to regulate the telecommunications and broadcasting industry in Taiwan.

NCC said CTi’s internal controls on news reporting has failed and cited accusations of newsroom interference by major shareholder Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), who runs Want Want Holdings Limited, a Taiwan-headquartered company with a subsidiary that is one of the largest food and beverage firms in China.

In Taiwan, Tsai’s family owns two television stations, CTiTV and CTV, and the China Times, one of the four largest newspapers in the country.

Tsai Eng-meng

Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images

Media mogul Tsai Eng-meng smiles during a public event in Taipei, Taiwan, Sept. 16, 2011. Appearing last year before Taiwanese regulators, Tsai appeared perplexed over a decision to fine his flagship newspaper for carrying camouflaged advertising on behalf of China's Communist government.

The NCC’s move has drawn the immediate ire of CTi, which calls the day “the darkest” for the freedom of press and speech since the end of martial law in 1987. The news channel vows to file a lawsuit against the decision, saying that the government is seeking to silence those who are critical of its policies.

The Kuomintang, Taiwan’s main opposition party, also opposed the decision, which it describes could have a “chilling effect” and endanger press freedom.

By contrast, the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) endorsed the NCC decision based on professional standards, citing evidence that CTi News is not able to ensure independence and discipline.

Upholding the freedom of expression does not mean using disinformation to sabotage the nation’s political system, said Lin I-chin (林宜瑾), a DPP lawmaker.

In the past six years, CTi has been fined NT$10.73 million (US$374,000) for 21 violations ranging from biased reporting to spreading misinformation.

Chen Huey-rong (陳慧蓉), an NCC commissioner for the case and a professor of journalism, said CTi continues to be fined for similar reasons over the years, which means that its review mechanism on reporting is not functioning. The network does not have a mechanism to reply to complaints from viewers, either.

In September, under the request of the DPP, the NCC conducted an investigation into allegations of Beijing’s interference in CTi’s news reporting as the commission reviewed the news station’s request for license renewal.

中天換照遭駁回 NCC:勞動權益是做決定最難部分

Photo Credit: CNA

Chen Yaw-shyang, NCC chairman, explains the decision to reject CTi's application to have its six-year license renewed at a press conference in Taipei, Taiwan, November 19, 2020.

Yesterday, the NCC did not refer to Chinese interference to support its decision, but critics repeatedly say the news channel has turned itself into a mouthpiece for Beijing and abuses media freedom in Taiwan.

Last year, accused of receiving Chinese funding, Tsai acknowledged taking subsidies from the Chinese government, but said they went to his snack and beverage business only.

CTi has also stirred controversy prior to Taiwan’s 2020 general elections, when it dedicated more than 70% of its airtime to Han Kuo-yu, the KMT presidential candidate who favors close ties with China.

Taiwan Statebuilding Party (TSP), a political party that advocates Taiwanese independence, lauded the NCC decision as “an affirmative action to protect Taiwan’s freedom of speech, press, as well as democracy” in a Facebook post.

“My party and I are now relieved that Taiwanese no longer have to put up with a TV news station producing and circulating ‘fake’ news with a disregard for ethics and professionalism in journalism,” said Chen Po-wei (陳柏惟), a TSP legislator. “We are happy that people do not have to tolerate any more of CTi News’ actions to create social conflict.”

In response to the decision, Reporters Without Borders said it “regrets the non-renewal of TV channel CTi News’ broadcasting licence as it bears consequences for its staff,” but thinks the rejection “does not go against press freedom.”

Now that CTi has been banned, major broadcasters are starting to vie for its coveted Channel 52 slot. Chen, NCC chairman, recommended that the Taiwan Broadcasting System, a public broadcasting group that owns two networks, take over, but said the issue requires further discussion with television system operators.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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