AwarovercontrolofTVchannels

A war over control of TV channels is over.The Unique Group won a government auction of 25.77 percent of the Taiwan Television Enterprise shares last week to end the administration’s long fight to keep control of the terrestrial stations electronic media in the hands of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and its ally Taiwan Solidarity Union.

The war started on a very innocent note a few years ago. The DPP succeeded in legislating the transfer to private ownership of all shares the political parties, the military and the government owned in the four over-the-air networks.Subsequently, the opposition Kuomintang was required to sell its China Television Corporation.The Kaohsiung-based Formosa TV station, owned by acting DPP chairman Trong Chai, changed ownership but is under more than effective control of the ruling party.The Chinese Television Service, owned by the Ministry of National Defense, was made part of the Public Television Service.The Kuomintang, that had had some residual influence over the military-operated CTV until it was made public-owned, didn’t even put up a fight in the takeover of the TTV.It was a battle between the ruling party and the TSU.

President Chen Shui-bian let Lai Kuo-chou, a son-in-law of Lee Teng-hui who is the spiritual leader of the TSU, run the TTV as board chairman and chief executive officer after 2000.Chen and the former president fell out last year.Lai was fired earlier this month for purchasing the TTV shares owned by four Japanese investors, including Fuji Television.The Liberty Times, a mass-circulation daily in Taipei and a strong supporter of the ruling party, tried to buy the TTV shares the government was planning to auction off.Cheng Wen-tsan, the then director-general of the Government Information Office, hosted a dinner to let Sumio Hasegawa, Fuji TV representative, meet the management of the Taipei paper.Hasegawa later charged Cheng with “trying to persuade” him to sell the Fuji holdings to the Liberty Times.Steve Chen, minister of economic affairs, was also at the dinner.He subsequently admitted that he met representatives in Taiwan of Japanese investors in the TTV, though he denied any attempt at persuasion.

Hasegawa branded all such attempts as an international scandal.In Japan, he said, those responsible government officials had to resign or to be axed.Premier Su Tseng-chang duly fired Cheng, but Steve Chen stays in office.The Unique Group is to add its shares to those of Lai’s to let the TSU keep its control over the TTV.

The Kuomintang is the only loser in the lopsided tug of war.It lost control over the three terrestrial stations it used to have and all four networks are firmly in the hands of the ruling alliance.That defeats the lofty professed purpose of getting rid of any and all influence of political parties over the electronic media.

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