Court overrules CTiTV appeal; CTi News on cable TV to close down

12/11/2020 09:24 PM
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CNA photo Dec. 7, 2020
CNA photo Dec. 7, 2020

Taipei, Dec. 11 (CNA) Chung Tien Television (CTiTV) will have to close down its cable news channel from midnight Friday upon the expiration of its six-year broadcast license, following a decision by the Supreme Administrative Court to overrule an appeal by the company.

Earlier in the day, the court turned down CTiTV's appeal against a lower court's rejection of its request for an injunction to prevent CTi News' shutdown when its broadcast license expires on Dec. 11. The ruling is final.

CTiTV filed the injunction request after its application for the renewal of CTi News' broadcast license was rejected on Nov. 18 by the National Communications Commission (NCC), Taiwan's top telecommunications and broadcasting regulator.

The injunction request sought to allow the continued operation of the channel and to prevent the NCC from allocating channel 52 of the cable TV network that was used by CTi News to another company during a formal administrative suit filed by CTiTV against the NCC.

The Taipei High Administrative Court on Monday rejected CTiTV's request for the injunction, citing as a reason that the company could not prove that it had a realistic chance of winning its lawsuit against the NCC, which is one of the conditions under which an injunction could be granted.

The court said CTiTV also failed to see how the NCC's decision to not renew CTi News' license would cause "irrecovable damage or urgent harm" to the company, another condition for granting an injunction.

Under Taiwanese law, the court said, broadcast licenses must be renewed every six years, and there is always a chance that an application would be rejected, as the company should have known.

The NCC decided on Nov. 18 not to renew the broadcast license of CTi News, citing "repeated violations of regulations and a failure of its internal discipline and control mechanisms."

CTiTV has argued that the decision was politically motivated, as CTi News is known for being critical of Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party administration and friendly toward China.

Former President Ma Ying-jeou (right) and KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang. CNA photo Dec. 11, 2020
Former President Ma Ying-jeou (right) and KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang. CNA photo Dec. 11, 2020

At a press conference on Friday, former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), chairman of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), called for international attention to the gravity of the situation that Taiwan's current ruler was shutting down a TV news channel, subverting freedom of speech and freedom of press that have long been protected in the nation.

"The NCC's failure to be properly independent and objective not only undermines press freedom, but worse, its failure tarnishes the very democracy and freedom enshrined in our constitution, and causes our nation to trend toward dictatorship," Chiang said when he addressed the press event attended by several foreign reporters.

He said the KMT attaches great importance to the media environment and freedom of press, and whether or not they can effectively work to oversee the government. "Regrettably, the mechanism is now not highly valued," he said.

"If a ruler abuses the nation's resources to meddle in the operations of the media and to smother opposing viewpoints in society, then the ruler is depriving the people of their right to express themselves." Chiang said.

Ma, who also spoke at the event, said in his speech that it is with grief that he mourns the disappearance of the freedom of press in Taiwan.

He rebuked President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for acting differently from what she has previously said, citing her remarks in an interview with TIME magazine in October last year that "Taiwan probably ranks near the top in Asia for freedom of speech. This is one of the freest places in Asia and it is a great environment for the media."

Only a totalitarian regime will shut down a news channel, subverting freedom of speech while chanting slogans about defending democracy and freedom, Ma said.

A protest held outside the Legislative Yuan over the government
A protest held outside the Legislative Yuan over the government's decision not to renew the license of CtiTV's news channel in Taipei on Thursday. CNA photo Dec. 10, 2020

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rebutted that the freedom of press is not limitless.

It said in a statement that "like any other freedom, it requires regulations and democratic control to be fully effective and deter abuse," citing a statement released by the Reporters without Borders (RSF) on Nov. 18, when the license renewal was rejected.

"Regular review of license renewal applications is NCC's responsibility: from former Ma administration to the current Tsai administration. NCC has always been obligated to act and execute professional reviews in accord with relevant laws and regulations," the DPP said.

"We respect NCC's decisions made independently. We believe that all our people are discerning and that specious accusation should not distort facts. The final judgment and opinion on this issue will eventually be left to the public," the party said.

The party will never interfere with the NCC under its long-held pledge to make every effort to safeguard the freedom of press and speech, the DPP said.

Meanwhile, the opposition New Power Party (NPP) said the CTi News case is only the beginning of a media reform movement. It pledged to make efforts to push for the legislation of an anti-media manipulation act, promote the health of public media, strengthen Taiwan's cultural content, and establish order in today's media.

NPP Chairwoman Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華), who is also an incumbent lawmaker, said at a press event that opposing media manipulation has been the party's firmly held stance ever since its founding in 2015.

As such, they hope the order of the nation's media market can be settled through the formation of effective and complete laws and regulations, she said.

Chen suggested that the government should adopt rules similar to the European Union's Audiovisual Media Services Directive to regulate all the emerging and conventional media.

NPP Secretary-General Christy Pai (白卿芬) urged the government to introduce laws banning media manipulation as soon as possible to prevent media sources from being held by just a few people.

She also pointed out that CTi News has turned to online platforms since it failed to have its broadcast license renewed in November.

As of Friday morning, the number of subscribers to the news provider's channel on YouTube had surged from 750,000 to 1.76 million, Pai said, and there are currently no rules to regulate the channel's contents.

(By Liu Kuan-ting, Wang Yang-yu, Lin Yu-hsuan and Elizabeth Hsu)

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