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IFJ concerned by threat to media diversity

UPDATE: IFJ supports Taiwan's media in its protests against monopolisation (IFJ, 4 September 2012)

(IFJ/IFEX) - July 26, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned by the decision of the Republic of China (Taiwan)'s National Communications Commission (NCC) to approve the expansion of the services of media giant Want Want China Times Group, in Taipei on July 25, 2012.

Want Want China Broadband, a subsidiary of the Want Want China Times Group, already owns several newspapers, magazines, and both terrestrial and satellite television stations in Taiwan. It is reported that the new expansion would see the company purchase an additional 10 cable television companies for TWD 76 billion (approximately USD 2.6 billion), allowing the company to secure 23 per cent of Taiwan's market of cable subscribers. The purchase would enable the company to control one-third of Taiwan's media market.

On May 7, the NCC held a hearing to consider the Want Want China Times Group's proposed expansion. During the hearing, the Group's Chairperson Tsai Eng-meng indirectly admitted that the Group had made editorial compromises. According to several local media reports, Tsai's media companies have already accepted advertising revenue from the Mainland without notifying its readers.

On July 25, the NCC approved the application of the media giant with three conditions. The conditions, as explained by NCC Chairperson Su Herng, include that the Want Want China Times Group's Chairperson Tsai Eng-meng and his family must not be involved in the management of CTiTV's news channel and that China Television's news channel must amend its operational plan to become a non-news channel.

Taiwan Journalists Association (TJA), an IFJ affiliate, several civil organizations and journalism scholars have criticised the NCC's decision, claiming it could jeopardize press freedom and diversification in Taiwan.

According to the section 62(1) of Taiwan's Budget Act the Government and its institutions are prevented from making purchasing that jeopardize press freedom. However no similar regulations exist in other media related legislation.

"Although the NCC has imposed conditions on the approval of the expansion of the Want Want China Times Group's media ownership, the decision still raises cause for concern", IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

"Press freedom and democracy in Taiwan are best served by media pluralism and editorial independence, and it remains unclear whether this decision works against these forces".

IFJ urges the Government of Taiwan to review the NCC's decision, and amend all relevant media laws to ensure press freedom and media diversity.

We also urge Taiwan's media to continue to exercise oversight over the operations of the Group's operations in the future.

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