The China Post news staff
During the Cold War era, one of the most pervasive propaganda slogans in Taiwan was that “Communist spies are all around you.” The communist threat may not be as tangible today as a few decades ago, but now it is bullies that are everywhere in Taiwan. Bullying at schools has made headlines over the past few weeks in the wake of a few shocking, brutal cases, but bullies are not only found on campuses. The row over the imminent shutting down of ERA TV’s entertainment channel by the National Communication Commission (NCC) is an example of the pervasiveness of bullying and of the possible forms — physical, mental, social, political, and others — it may take. A popular TV host whose talk show on the channel will have to go off air has called the NCC a bully for revoking the channel’s license before exhausting all other forms of penalties. Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong media mogul who owns the Next group, would probably agree. His company’s application to set up a TV channel has been rejected by the NCC citing the possibility of Next offering violent and sensational content to audiences. It means that Next is being denied a license for something it has not done yet. Lai’s Apple Daily and Next magazine may be tabloids, but that does not mean that his TV channel would be any worse than existing networks whose content, by NCC’s logic, should have their licenses voided.
ERA TV has been fined and warned many times for repeatedly disguising advertisements as regular news or other programs. But the offense may not warrant a “death sentence,” judging that embedded marketing is pervasive in Taiwan’s media, and the government is actually one of the biggest media buyers. It is the government who, using financial terms, has bullied the media into running its publicity campaigns without explicitly stating that they are actually advertisements. So the government is punishing media establishments for doing business with it on terms set by the government. The media in Taiwan is not always the victim; they are often bullies themselves. We have often seen those “famous mouths” — popular political commentators — lynching others, and of course the government has often found itself on the receiving end. So the NCC’s decision to shut down ERA’s channel and its denial of Next a TV license could be seen as some form of retaliation.