Taiwan’s NCC (National Communications Commission) last week refused a CTi News license renewal application – the decision to unanimously reject the application being made public on November 18th.
It was the first time since the NCC was established to regulate Taiwan’s telecommunications and broadcasting services that such a move has been made.
That it happened vis-a-vis a pro-China station raised more than a few eyebrows.
CTi had held its broadcast licence for six years although over those years it has repeatedly come under fire for its Beijing friendly reporting.
All of the NCC’s seven current commissioners rejected the application from the cable news network, which is owned by the pro-China Want Want media group; a move seen as the clearest indication yet of the commission’s displeasure at CTi’s continued violations of broadcast regulations, frequent disinformation campaigns and biased reporting.
Four reasons for refusal
- Regulations violated – During CTi News’ six-years of broadcasting, complaints from the public have been a constant, but surged between 2017, and 2019, questioning the professionalism of the broadcaster.
- Malfunction of internal control – CTi News existing mechanisms in reply to complaints is dysfunctional which led to the network continuing to be fined, but no indications that reforms have been made were evident.
- Outside interference – The major shareholders of CTi, Want Want Chairman, Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) and China Times Group vice president, Chiu Chia- yu (邱佳瑜), directly and indirectly participated in the news output of the station.
- Lack of evaluation – Though CTi News submitted eight measures to help improve the situation, the question of outside interference remains unresolved.
CTi News applies for legal remedy
In response to the outcome, CTi News expressed the opinion that there should be more than one voice, to fight for labor rights and the freedom of press, and as such the broadcaster would apply for judicial relief.
Cited in the statement that, “It’s the darkest day for the freedom of the press and speech since martial law was lifted 30 years ago.” CTi claimed that NCC has held a public trial, questioning the role of two of the seven commissioners they claim are anti-Want Want, and who should recuse themselves to avoid conflicts of interest.
NCC reiterates neutral stance
NCC chairperson, Chen Yaw-shyang (陳耀祥), emphasized that license renewal isn’t a formality, but is periodical, denying CTi claims that two of the commissioners attending social movements would affect neutrality in the decision making process.
CTS likely to fill the vacant channel 52
The public service broadcaster, CTS, meanwhile, with its two Excellent Journalism Award nominations this year, is expected to take over the vacant channel 52 slot after CTi News steps down in December.
More details on how this will happen and what shows will be broadcast are anticipated in the coming days and weeks, but when the CTi News license expires on December 11th, the NCC would do well to take a long, hard look at its own actions and transparency of its decision making process to fully benefit the public interest in similar cases in the future.