3 top PTS officials resign over English program platform dispute

07/27/2020 09:50 PM
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From left to right: Tsao Wen-chieh, Hsieh Tsui-yu and Su Chi-chen
From left to right: Tsao Wen-chieh, Hsieh Tsui-yu and Su Chi-chen

Update: July 29-Ministry calls off plan to have PTS handle planned video platform

Taipei, July 27 (CNA) Three top executives at Taiwan's independent Public Television Service (PTS) resigned after the station's board approved a plan Monday to prepare for the setting up of a controversial international programming platform in English.

PTS President Tsao Wen-chieh (曹文傑), Executive Vice President Hsieh Tsui-yu (謝翠玉) and news department manager Su Chi-chen (蘇啟禎) tendered their resignations after the project was approved by an 11-4 vote. None of the three are members of the board.

The Ministry of Culture (MOC) announced a plan earlier this month for an "International Digital Communication Program" that would create an English-language programming platform to offer shows that "introduce Taiwan to the world."

At Monday's meeting, PTS board members were asked to decide whether to approve a plan to make preparations for the program.

A total of 15 members of the 18-person board, including Chairwoman Tchen Yu-chiou (陳郁秀), attended the meeting, and after three and a half hours of discussions, 11 voted to go ahead with the plan, while four voted against it.

Feng Hsiao-fei (馮小非), one of the four board members who voted against the plan, said afterwards that PTS management and the MOC jointly applied to the National Development Council for four years of funding for the "public works program" even before the board met on July 16 to discuss the project.

The initial proposal for funding of the actual platform was NT$4 billion (US$136 million) over four years, but when the board was called for the extraordinary meeting on Monday, the proposed budget had ballooned to NT$5.8 billion over four years, Feng said.

She argued that the PTS board of directors has not yet given the green light to the ambitious program, and even at Monday's extraordinary meeting, the board was presented with incomplete information on the program itself and the preparation plan.

On such a big issue, "discussions should be held with the board first," Feng protested, speculating that "influence from outside" had reached into PTS' affairs.

"Why are such issues being concealed from even the board of directors?" she asked, accusing the government of taking over PTS for its own use.

The MOC issued a statement saying that it respected the PTS board's decision but regretted that the government's "trust" in PTS to produce high quality videos and programs was twisted as "the government's taking over PTS."

It said the policy to create an international video programming platform will not change, but pledged that the ministry will conduct a careful evaluation of the project to avoid public doubts over the government's interference in PTS operations, according to the statement.

In its statement following Monday's vote, PTS said it will sign the preparation plan as soon as the government approves the NT$45 million budget.

As for the four-year project to develop international digital communication services, it will be presented to the next board of directors for discussion, the statement said.

The current board's term has ended, but the MOC has had trouble putting a new board together. Culture Minister Lee Yung-te (李永得) said he hoped the process could be completed by August.

On July 21, Lee announced the plan to allocate NT$1 billion a year for four years to PTS to create and operate the video platform.

The planned "International Video Platform" will provide original videos and programs in English produced by PTS on themes related to Taiwan and post them on the online platform, Lee said.

In June, PTS applied for subsidies from MOC for the preparation plan with the hope of launching the international video programming platform in English in January 2021.

(By Yeh Kuan-ying and Elizabeth Hsu)

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