NCC seeks testimony from Want Want chair at broadcast license hearing

10/20/2020 10:28 PM
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Tsai Eng-meng, founder and chairman of the Want Want Holdings conglomerate that owns CTiTV. CNA file photo
Tsai Eng-meng, founder and chairman of the Want Want Holdings conglomerate that owns CTiTV. CNA file photo

Taipei, Oct. 20 (CNA) Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC) on Tuesday invited the chairman of Chung T'ien Television (CTiTV) parent company Want Want Holdings to testify at a controversial hearing next week on the renewal of the station's broadcast license.

In September, the commission voted to hold an unprecedented public hearing on Oct. 26 to review a license renewal request submitted by CTiTV, a cable news network that is frequently critical of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

The move was assailed by critics as proof that the government is looking to close the station, effectively threatening Taiwan's media freedom, while supporters argue that the station's alleged ties to the government in China need to be fully investigated.

In a statement on Tuesday, the NCC invited Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), founder and chairman of the Want Want Holdings conglomerate that owns CTiTV, to voluntarily attend the hearing, based on his extensive knowledge of the company's operations and strategy.

In addition to reviewing CTiTV's broadcast license, the NCC said the hearing will "provide an opportunity for dialogue with the media on the commission's regulatory role and on improving Taiwan's media environment," while also increasing public access to the workings of government.

The decision to request Tsai's participation in the hearing will likely be seen in a political light, given his long support for Taiwan's unification with China and the frequently anti-DPP stance of his media holdings, which also include the China Times newspaper.

In September, the DPP called on the NCC to investigate reports of Chinese government interference in CTiTV's operations as it reviewed the network's license renewal, describing the allegations, if true, as a threat to media freedom.

The opposition Kuomintang (KMT), in contrast, has called the unprecedented review an attempt by the government to clamp down on critical news coverage.

On Monday, former KMT presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) warned that shuttering CTiTV would spell the end for Taiwanese democracy, adding that a news media without contrarian voices is "one of the hallmarks of an authoritarian country."

In an effort to quell the controversy over the hearing, both the Presidential Office and the Executive Yuan released statements on Tuesday pledging not to get involved and to respect the results of the NCC's review.

The composition of the NCC is itself likely to prove contentious, as five of its seven members were confirmed by the Legislature in July despite opposition from the KMT and the centrist Taiwan People's Party.

The hearing, which is scheduled to take place at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 26, will be streamed live on the NCC's Youtube channel. CTiTV's broadcast license expires on Dec. 10.

(By Su Ssu-yun, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Matthew Mazzetta)

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