The treatment that Taiwan’s politicians receive on television is turning would-be civil servants away from public life, the Chinese-language United Daily News (UDN) says in an editorial.

Taiwan has more than 20 political talk shows, with hundreds of thousands of viewers tuning in every night. The shows are notorious for their harsh criticism of politicians and their well-known commentators frequently wading into the personal lives of public officials.

According to the UDN editorial published today, talented people are choosing to work in the private sector rather than as public officials who are treated “unequally and disrespectfully” on national television.

The editorial said there is a lack of diversity among the shows’ commentators, with the same group of commentators rotating between different shows, repeating the same message. Political pundits stereotype politicians, labeling, for example, senior politicians with "high" salaries as “fat cats.”

The shows often have an inherent “blue” or “green” bias – siding with one of Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang (KMT) or Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) – and rarely have deep or meaningful political insight, it says.

The shows have also been known to not let the truth get in the way of a good story. In July, a talk show host publically apologized for making up allegations last year against former KMT secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥璁).

The author concludes that the dearth of talent in Taiwan’s political sphere will likely harm the running of the country in the long-term.

New generation, new tactics

Unsurprisingly, some of Taiwan’s political newcomers are taking different approaches to dealing with mainstream media.

The UDN editorial does not mention the impact of the 2014 Sunflower Movement, which saw Taiwan’s youth become increasingly politically active. Nor does it mention the creation of the New Power Party, which was spawned by that movement and won four seats in Taiwan’s parliament in the January general election.

In an interview with The News Lens International earlier this year, New Power Party (NPP) legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) revealed that the party, fed up with political media spinning and misrepresenting its statements, now posts live video feeds from all its events and press conferences.

And the latest addition to President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) Cabinet has likewise taken a novel approach to the media. Audrey Tang (唐鳳) joined the Tsai administration this month as a minister without portfolio responsible for the digital economy and open government.

Tang’s appointment was announced in late August. Despite a flood of media interview requests – including from this publication – Tang has pointed all suitors toward a website where questions are submitted and answered publically. She also conducted a “virtual reality interview” with students from Taiwan Public Television Station’s "Youth News.”

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: Olivia Yang