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TAIWAN: Public TV need not be a stifling experience

Public TV need not be a stifling experience

Government Information Office (GIO) Director-General Lin Chia-lung has suggested that the government purchase shares in Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV) and Chinese Television System (CTS), and combine the stations with Public Television Service (PTS), Hakka TV and four other channels to form a public media group

Taipei Times
Tuesday, June 16, 2004

By Kuo Li-hsin

Government Information Office (GIO) Director-General Lin Chia-lung has suggested that the government purchase shares in Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV) and Chinese Television System (CTS), and combine the stations with Public Television Service (PTS), Hakka TV and four other channels to form a public media group. This proposal deserves our support.

I believe that the public, who have a deep hatred of our vicious commercial TV culture, will not only welcome but also demand that the government's policy be put in place. I believe they are hoping that the Cabinet will support the emergence of the proposed public media group with proper planning and a sense of urgency.

A major problem with the media stems from the lack of vision in the government's executive and legislative branches,

as well as in the media and in academic circles. As a result, these groups only care about gains and losses, and cannot judge if a new system is really feasible based on their narrow experiences.

When the new media policy was announced, legislators and scholars from all camps questioned it. For example, Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Cheng Chen-lung objected to the policy out of fears that making these media public may "nationalize" them. His opinion showed he was unaware of current realities and that he made reckless comments without doing his homework.

Others fretted that the proposed public media group will have a surplus of channels and excessive resources and might be incapable of running them. This is typical defeatism, born of a lack of experience and vision.

First, why didn't they criticize other commercial channels that by far exceed the channels of the public media group in number? The former are full of channels offering stock market analyses, adult services and erotic medicine shopping channels, and news channels with a lot of satellite news-gathering vans seeking bloody scenes from anywhere they can find them. Doesn't the problem of a surplus of channels and excessive resources also exist among these channels?

Second, the proposed public group will not become "high-quality channels" restricted to a minority or the very young. Instead, it will serve as a media platform that takes different tastes, needs, cultures and voices into consideration. Each channel will have a different direction and production content. Public TV stations are not "high-quality but tedious programming." They are media belonging to and used by all social classes. People can satisfy and improve themselves by viewing such entertainment, rather than being exploited by commercial channels.

Of course, concerns over the competence of the public media group are not completely unreasonable. The group's organizers have to seek managers with a sense of culture and planning ability from the corporate world. Only by doing so can we let a new media system bring vision based on a pragmatic foundation to Taiwan's media culture.

This society needs resolve and imagination, and it needs leaders with such qualities from various fields. We do not need defeatists who only see short-term interests.

People who long for improvement and who feel disgust at the current situation in the electronic media should take more aggressive action. They should tell those who object to the proposal to expand public broadcasting that Taiwan is capable of creating its own public media culture, and that the time is ripe for a public media mechanism.

Kuo Li-hsin is an executive member of the Campaign for Media Reform.

TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG

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