NCC decides to shut down CTiTV news station, denies license renewal

11/18/2020 05:04 PM
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The NCC
The NCC's press conference Wednesday. CNA photo Nov. 18, 2020

Update: CTiTV files for injunction to keep news channel from closing

Taipei, Nov. 18 (CNA) The National Communications Commission (NCC) has rejected the application by CTiTV's cable news station to renew its license, in effect shutting it down.

The decision was made during a review by NCC commissioners of the high-profile license renewal application earlier in the day.

It was the first time since the NCC was established in February 2006 to regulate Taiwan's telecommunications and broadcasting services that it rejected a license renewal from a news station, amid accusations that the decision was politically motivated.

The cable news network, which is owned by the Want Want China Times Media Group, is known for being critical of Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and favorable to China.

NCC Chairperson Chen Yaw-shyang (陳耀祥) said at a press conference following the review that CTi News was found to have repeatedly violated regulations, leading all seven commissioners to decide not to renew the privately-run station's broadcast license.

"There is very clear and specific evidence" of CTi News violations, he said, citing complaints filed by viewers surging since 2017 to average 30 percent of all the complaints the commission received.

Chen also said the station's internal controls on news reporting had failed, citing "outside interference" in the operations of the station's news department.

Starting in 2018 in particular, Chen said, major shareholder and Want Want Chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) directly and indirectly interfered in the station's news production.

Also, for five months in 2018 when CTi News was without a news director, then Want Want China Times Group vice president Chiu Chia- yu (邱佳瑜) interfered in the station's news operations, clearly violating the station's pledge of "news independence," Chen said.

There were also no internal controls that allowed for the questioning or examination of such practices, he said.

Though CTi News submitted eight measures during the review process to improve the situation, Chen contended that none of them would have eliminated the interference of major shareholders in its news.

In response, CTiTV called the day "the darkest" for the freedom of press and speech since martial law was lifted over 30 years ago.

In denying the license renewal based on two reasons -- the number of complaints that led to fines imposed on the station and the interference of a major shareholder -- the NCC "ignored the issue of political manipulation and disregarded communication theory and practice," CTiTV said.

"Under the NCC's current standards, every news stations in Taiwan should be shut down," it said in a statement.

The station also accused major political figures of wanting the station to be closed down and of the NCC being independent in name only, claiming that all of those called to testify at the review were all on the same side.

CTi News' six-year license is set to expire on Dec. 11, and it had to be renewed by the NCC if the station wanted to continue operating.

In September, the DPP called on the NCC to investigate reports of Beijing's interference in the news channel's operations during its review of the station's request to have its license renewed, describing the allegations, if true, as a threat to media freedom.

The NCC, however, did not point to Chinese interference in supporting its decision, pointing instead to violations related to spreading disinformation and biased reporting.

At an unprecedented public hearing on Oct. 26 to review CTi News' case, the NCC said the station had been fined NT$10.73 million (US $374,000) for 21 such violations over the past six years, the most violations of any TV station.

One of the reviewers, Chen Huey-rong (陳慧蓉), a professor of journalism at Chinese Culture University, said at the time that CTi News does have an existing mechanism to reply to complaints from viewers. However, the network continues to be fined for similar violations, meaning that its internal control or review mechanism is apparently not working and that no reforms have been made, despite years of complaints and fines.

The station argued, however, that only five of the violations had been confirmed and that the others were being appealed.

Critics of the NCC's move argued at the time of the hearing that the Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) government was looking to close the station, effectively threatening Taiwan's media freedom.

(By Su Ssu-yun, Pan Tzu-yu and Elizabeth Hsu)

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