NCC tramples on press freedom, muzzles Taiwan opposition media CTi News

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — The National Communications Commission (NCC, 國家通訊傳播委員會) announced on Wednesday its unanimous decision to reject CTi News’ (中天新聞) application for a license extension, risking a public backlash over perceived infringement to the freedom of the press.

Asked about the reasons why Taiwan’s main opposition media operated by Chung T’ien Television should be denied a license extension, the commission cited some “clear evidence of violations” without offering a convincing reason.

Among other arguments, the NCC cited the skyrocketing complaints from citizens since 2017, which reportedly accounted for as much as 30 percent of the total number of cases received by the commission, and its alleged dysfunctional internal control mechanism. 

The license of CTi News, which is valid for 6 years, will now expire on Dec. 11, 2020, putting at risk the jobs of nearly 500 journalists and technicians without addressing the public’s concerns regarding the poor quality content of television news channels in the first place. 

Local competition among the seven all-news cable stations has led to an emphasis on sensationalist and often trivial stories that are used by political parties, media pundits and commentators to shape Taiwan’s media landscape roughly divided between pan-green (pro-independence) and pan-blue (pro-unification) views.

Observers remark that CTi News is one of the few media outlets in Taiwan that is still willing to give groups supporting unification with China a voice, which is not illegal per se. Whether authorities like it or not, there will only be one voice in the nation when the news channel is gone which is much more controversial in a democracy. 

Denying a license extension — the first time since the creation of the NCC in 2006 — could further backlash on the ruling party’s campaign to increase Taiwan exposure on the international stage as an administrative agency should not be responsible to handle issues impacting Taiwan’s press freedom as a simple, administrative procedure.

According to the opposition Kuomintang (KMT, 國民黨), the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, 民進黨) has allegedly used the NCC, which was established to be an independent body charged with regulating the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors and safeguarding the freedom of the press, as a censorship tool.

The Legislative Yuan (Parliament) on July 10 confirmed five nominees to serve on Taiwan’s top telecommunications and broadcasting regulator to the dismay of the opposition which claimed that four of the five nominees were openly aligned with the pan-green views.

National Civil Servant Association honorary chairman Harry Lee (李來希) reportedly said that former NCC chairwoman Nicole Chan (詹婷怡) resigned in 2019 after being scolded by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) at a Cabinet meeting for the commission’s alleged failure to curb the spread of misinformation, raising doubts that the NCC is an independent agency.

Due to the high level of interest in the NCC’s decision on Wednesday, authorities dispatched police units outside the NCC office as the committee members and Chairperson Chen Yaw-Shyang (陳耀祥) attended the press conference to explain their decision which is poised to further widen the political divide between the ruling and opposition supporters.