President, premier deny pressuring NCC to approve Mirror TV license
Taipei, Sept. 28 (CNA) Taiwan's Presidential Office and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) have denied wrongdoing after a lawmaker released audio of a former Mirror TV executive, claiming they were involved in efforts to pressure the National Communications Commission (NCC) to approve the news channel's broadcast license.
The controversy stems from a legislative session attended by Su on Tuesday, at which New Power Party (NPP) Chairwoman Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華) played three clips from a recording of what she said were remarks made by former Mirror TV Chairman Pei Wei (裴偉) at a shareholders' meeting last December.
In the first recording, the speaker is heard saying "Premier Su has already contacted [NCC Chairman] Chen Yaw-shyang (陳耀祥) and told him these things, these procedures, are already complete."
In another of the clips, the person says that after speaking with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) about problems with the NCC, Tsai "immediately told Su Tseng-chang that this matter has already been rigorously handled...that there's no reason to delay, you have to get it taken care of."
In a third recording, the speaker states that Su "immediately" contacted the NCC chairman about an issue he had relayed to the Cabinet, while also claiming that Tsai and Su had been using Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Secretary-General Hung Yao-fu (洪耀福) as a "representative" in discussions with the NCC.
When asked by Chen if high-ranking government or party officials had interfered in Mirror TV's broadcast license application, Su replied that "nothing of the sort" had occurred, as the government respects the NCC's institutional independence.
The Presidential Office, for its part, denied that Tsai had ever discussed the issue with Su, saying that Tsai has no involvement in "individual cases."
Mirror TV's broadcast license was ultimately approved in January, and the NCC is reportedly now considering applications by Taiwan's major multi-system operators to have it moved into channel 55 or 86.
The channel 55 slot would be especially contentious, as it is situated in Taiwan's main block of TV news channels, and, per the application, would see the channel's current occupant TVBS -- which is considered friendly to the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) -- moved further up the dial to channels 149 or 158.
As fallout from the leaked audio spread on Wednesday, Pei, who is currently president of Mirror Media, issued a statement threatening to sue Mirror TV's former chief financial officer for allegedly recording the remarks, the meaning of which he said had been twisted by deceptive editing.
He also claimed that Mirror TV's license application process had spanned 26 months, which he argued would not have been the case if there had really been political interference.
However, another former Mirror TV chairman, Chen Chien-ping (陳建平), said he was in possession of the full 2-hour recording of Pei's remarks, and was willing to turn it over to investigators.
The KMT was quick to pounce on the issue, calling Wednesday for a legal investigation into whether the activities alleged in the tapes had violated laws against influence peddling.
KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) added that the party's legislative caucus would also seek to set up an investigative committee, comprised of lawmakers, scholars, former NCC officials and legal experts, in order to "find out the truth."
The NPP's Chen Jiau-hua, meanwhile, said that based on the recordings, either Premier Su or the former Mirror TV chairman Pei was lying, and urged the government to "come forward and clear things up" as quickly as possible.
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