Non-renewal of CTi News license regrettable: RSF
Taipei, Nov. 18 (CNA) The non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Wednesday it was regrettable that Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC) had rejected the application by a cable news station to renew its broadcasting license.
The decision not to renew the license of Chung Tien Television (CTiTV) News (CTi News) was unanimous among the seven NCC commissioners, based on several factors, including the network's repeated violations of regulations and failure of its internal discipline and control mechanisms, according to the NCC.
In response, RSF said in a statement that it "regrets the non-renewal of TV channel CTi News' broadcasting licence as it bears consequences for its staff" but thinks the NCC's decision "does not go against press freedom."
"Press freedom does not mean the absence of a regulation," RSF said. "Press freedom, as defined by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a right of the public to receive accurate information and not a right of media owners to impart content that suits their interests."
The RSF said the NCC's review of CTi News' license was legitimate, since it was a regular procedure by an independent regulator for an extension of the license.
However, non-renewal of a license is "an extreme measure" that must be properly justified, said RSF, an international non-profit NGO dedicated to the protection of freedom of information.
"RSF calls on the NCC to provide the public with complete access to all evidence showing unequivocally that the renewal of CTi News' license would have endangered the public interest," the statement said.
It also urged the NCC to apply the same standards to all future reviews of media licenses, regardless of the media organization's political orientation.
The NCC's decision means that CTi News, which has been pro-China and a harsh critic of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), will have to close down on Dec. 11 when its six-year license expires.
Commenting on the issue, chairman of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said the NCC needs to explain why it refused to renew CTi News' license, or it will have a hard time convincing people that the decision was not politically motivated.
He expressed concern that the decision would have a "chilling effect" that could hurt journalistic freedom in Taiwan.
"The assignment of broadcasting frequencies to cable news stations should involve a balance of domestic public opinion and not one-sided political considerations," Chiang said.
KMT legislative caucus whip Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) said he was disappointed that the NCC, which should be an independent government body, had dealt with the CTi News case based on the DPP's playbook.
"CTi has its own audience," just like the pro-DPP and independence-leaning media outlets in Taiwan, Lin said.
The authorities can impose fines on a station for non-objective reporting but should not shut it down for that reason, he said, adding that freedom of the press and speech cannot be compromised.
On the DPP side, Legislator and caucus whip Chuang Jui-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said the NCC's decision was "based on independent judgment."
It is not up to any political party, only the NCC, an independent government institution, to decide whether to renew the license, he said.
Meanwhile, two university professors said the NCC was well within its rights to decide against renewing CTi News' license.
Lo Shih-hung (羅世宏), a professor in the Department of Communications at National Chung Cheng University, said the issue should not be politicized.
"If media outlets on the other end of spectrum, such as SETN and FTV, do the same, their licenses should not be renewed either," Lo said. CTi News is merely one of many media resources owned by the Want Want China Times group, Lo said, adding that the business group can still broadcast live on YouTube.
Hung Chen-ling (洪貞玲), an associate professor at the Graduate Institute of Journalism at National Taiwan University, said that because of CTiTV's failure to respect the regulations, its reporters constantly made mistakes.
"There is also interference by the boss" of the station, Hung said, adding that the NCC would have taken such issues into consideration.
The NCC carried out its job under stringent legal procedures and did not infringe on freedom of press, Hung said, and she sympathized with the CTi News workers because they were not given much freedom in their news reporting.
Hung was referring to allegations that Want Want Chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) had directly and indirectly interfered in the station's news production.
Under Taiwan's Satellite Broadcasting Act, a TV license must be renewed every six years by the NCC, which decides whether to approve the application, based on the applicant's operational plans and their execution, record of violations, and practices in addressing complaints by viewers.
Since the NCC was established in February 2006, this is the first time it has rejected a license renewal application by a news station.
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