Politics and media control

Taiwan is in the middle of setting up a new National Communication Commission (NCC) – which will take over as a media watchdog from the Government Information Office. Given the incompetence of the current GIO head (my hero Pasuya Yao), and its long history of censorship and oppression, everyone approves of this.

However, there have been bitter (and bloody) fights over how to setup this body – the DPP wanted it to be selected by the Executive Yuan (currently controlled by the DPP), while the KMT wanted it to be selected by the Legislative Yuan (currently controlled by the KMT). The KMT got their way – after a small concession allowing the Executive Yuan to nominate some candidates for the NCC. This week, the process for selecting the members of the NCC started, and it didn’t take long before accusations of political bias appeared.

The process is pretty convoluted. 18 candidates are first selected: 3 by the executive yuan, and 15 by the Legislature (split 8-7 blue-green in line with the split in the legislature). Then a selection panel of 11 is selected by the Legislature (again in proportion to party size), who will select the 13 members of the NCC from the 18 candidates. This selection process happened over the weekend:

Thirteen nominees for first National Communication Commission were selected yesterday following a three-day intensive review process.

Of those selected, three are law experts, four are telecommunication technology experts, three are mass-media study experts, and three are communications economics experts. Only two are female – Liu You-li and Weng Hsiu-chi.

NCC Member Review Committee Chairman Wang Chung-yu (王鍾渝) said the selection process was not influenced by politics. He also said he hoped that political parties would not try to interfere in the operations of the NCC and that NCC members would undertake their new positions with professional judgment.

Although Wang was claiming the process was not influenced by politics, the fact that the Blue dominated selection committee selected all 8 KMT/PFP nominated candidates didn’t escape notice:

All six candidates recommended by the Kuomintang, as well as the two recommended by the People First Party were chosen. The review committee only chose two of the six nominations recommended by the Democratic Progressive Party and two of the Cabinet’s three candidates as NCC members. They also selected the one Taiwan Solidarity Union nominee.

While the DPP were muttering to themselves about this one of their selected candidates, possibly realising his selection had had more to do with politics than media regulation, panicked and withdrew his candidacy:

In a letter to Premier Frank Hsieh, Lu said he regrets that several political parties had packed the list of NCC nominees with their supporters, asking the premier to drop his name from the list of nominees of NCC members to be presented by the premier to the Legislature for confirmation.

Unfortunately, given the way the GIO and the NCC have become political hot potatoes recently, it would take a minor miracle to get a reasonably impartial NCC. The only question is whether they will be as amusingly inept as their predecessor.

8 thoughts on “Politics and media control

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  2. sun bin

    You are sdaying DPP wanted him to withdraw? isn’t he nominated by DPP/Hsieh?

    in the long run, this is a good solution. because KMT and DPP may switch power in the LY and EY. — this is democracy.
    i aslo think it is silly to call the process ‘political’, it is politics. as long as you announce who voted for whom, the voters will decide who they are going to elect into the LY next time.

  3. David

    Of course I don’t know why – but my guess is that he realised he had been dropped into the middle of a political power-struggle, rather than a simple job monitoring, regulating and planning the countries media infrastructure.

    I meant that the process this time has been overly political: for which a lot of the blame goes on Pasuya Yao for pushing media regulation into the limelight, as well as the legislators who got into fights about the NCC regulations. If it wasn’t such a hot topic, then the NCC candidates would be more likely to be selected on ability and suitability rather than political affiliation and loyalty. As soon as it becomes front page news, it turns into “selecting our guys to outvote your guys” mentality. The political sensitive side of the NCCs work is only a small part of their overall remit.

    I’ve no doubt that the NCC is better than the GIO – but the current process is a horrible kludge. Votes for both LY & EY? Why? Purely to balance the *current* political situation.

  4. sun bin

    i meant to say the mechanism alone sounds okay.
    one should not judge a long term solution on the dead-lock today, because the LY/EY will change hand in the future and nobody can predict.

  5. David

    Could be – but why? Surely it would delay the NCC for a week or two at most – even Pasuya Yao would have trouble causing too much mayhem in that time!

    Your suspicion also fails my golden rule for Taiwan’s politics: if you have to choose between ‘cock up’ and ‘conspiracy’ always choose the ‘cock up’ theory! You’re assuming a level of competence, organisation and forward-thinking to the DPP which is, in my view, unwarranted 🙂

  6. Pingback: Politics from Taiwan » The NCC: The Non-Constitutional Commission

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