- Posted March 25, 2014 by
Taipei City, Taiwan
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Protesters occupy Taiwan legislature
FREE SPEECH UNDER THREAT FROM MEDIA WITH STAINED TRACK RECORD
CTiTV and its Parent Company – Want Want China Holdings Ltd.
CTiTV Television Inc. runs three cable channels in Taiwan, including CTi News, CTi Entertainment, and Cti Channel. Outside the country, the company broadcasts to Asia-Pacific region through its international channel branded as CTi Asia, while to north America by CTi North America. Regardless of its expansive broadcast coverage, the network is merely a part of an enterprise that also owns a traditional TV network, CTV or China Television Company, Ltd. (TWSE: 9928), bought in 2009 from a Hong Kong company that acquired its share to CTV, along with KMT-funded radio and film studio, from a KMT subsidiary in 2005.
The enterprise, now traded in Hong Kong by code 0151 for ”Wang Wang China Holdings Limited” also runs newspapers in China as well as Taiwan. Its TDR (Taiwan Stock Exchange) first started trading at Taiwan Stock Exchange in April 2009 and was “voluntarily withdrawn on October 15, 2013″, as noted by Want Want China Holdings Ltd. in annual financial report of 2013 (English, PDF). What was not noted by the report, however, was in the February of the same year, the company was denied by NCC from buying out an MSO subscribed by over a million users. The head of the media, Eng-ming Tsai, once said in an interview ”I’ve already got money”, to deny from the allegation that he was financially assisted by PRC government on his purchase of a Taiwan-based newspaper, China Times – the purchase that brought the cracker maker into media business[source].
If approved, the merger in vertical would hold the fifth place in M&A history of Asia, and the Want Want China Times Media Group would have had scored around 140 in KEK index, while any merger with prospect over 30 would be rejected by German Communication on Concentration in the Media[source]. In general, KEK index is the sum of marketshare from different segments that are individually weighed by its influence as a platform.
The Troubled Merger that Troubled the Country
Before the merger was axed by the independent monitor committee from the government, namely National Communication Committee or NCC, the public was in awe of its US$ 2.6 billion estimated value. But the prospect of a heavily concentrated speech market was what drove the public crazy, since every word from WWCT would have five times of the influence to the limit of what was acceptable to the Germany government – whose people paid a tremendous price to learn that a too powerful media is more likely to be a bad idea. This prospect alone drew enough fire to shell the case and WWCT for two years since 2010. Yet the worst fear was egged into the public by completely something else. By the time it bursted out from every one’s chest, it was a roar against the business’ head – Eng-ming Tsai, and everything he represented.
The Press Owner that Invited PRC Official to “Give Guidance” on Free Press Soil
Tsai has a long list of assets, as well as his records of speech that the PRC might prefer over some of that from President Ma, who held improvements on cross-straight issue at the top priority for his administration. An excerpt, from the previously quoted interview published by Washington Post in 2012, might shed more light on popular veto on WWCT’s 140-KEK ambition:
When a provincial Communist Party boss traveled to Taiwan from China in 2010, he got an effusive greeting from Tsai on the front page: “On behalf of colleagues at Want Want, I welcome the Hubei Province (Party) Committee Secretary.” The Chinese official, who visited CtiTV, a cable channel owned by Tsai, was invited to “give guidance.” (Andrew Higgins, Washington Post, January 21, 2012)
While that, along with his claim to have long feared PRC’s ruling until 1989 military assault on student protesters in Tiananmen Square, provided no absurdity in comparison to what is about to follow.
He Who Lied Got Caught and Punished but Cared Not and Pledged Allegiance
As the aforementioned independent study pointed out, before the merger, the WWCT-EMG alliance controlled 24% of the cable broadcast market, 25% of channel retail, and were then in pursue of another 27.13% of MOS market with the merger. In other words the alliance would take control one fifth of the entire broadcast business from top to bottom. In this case, Prof. Jin-hua Chang urged the society to consider the case to dangerous both in terms of competition and speech concentration. However, the real issue at this point was whether the press owner possessed a set of characteristic that can be proven by track records that such tremendous influence would not be abused. In short word, whether the press owner and therefore the media under his tenure could be trusted. Unfortunately, judged by Tsai’s statement, the answer is “no.”
Shortly before the hearing held by NCC on May 7, 2012, a Provincial Governor from Fujien started a five-day visit in Taiwan on March 24. The news coverages on the trip from China Time was vetted by a reporter from News Talk then later proved to be following guidelines from a business deal with PRC Fujian Provincial Government. However, the troubled coverage seemed to be more than an ad-hoc marketing project titled specifically for the governor’s trip. When the reporter under disguise inquired an official regarding to payment, he was provided with fluent instructions over the phone, as if it were a routine for WWCT to take marketing money from PRC government[source]. China Times editor in chief had denied the proven allegation all the way.
At the hearing, Tsai stated that his press had done business with PRC government in the past four years. The Taiwanese press owner admitted his newspaper had taken money from PRC government to carryout placement marketing in the news coverage. Product placement is an approach to deliver message by concealing intention or disguising as a part of the content.
The tycoon further claimed that he does not consider carrying out this strategy for a militarily hostile country as an act that would endanger the national security of Taiwan. The NCC went on to approve the merger nevertheless on July 25, 2012, with the attachment of unprecedented 11 conditions that WWCT eventually failed to meet by February 20, 2013. In the meantime, a social movement rose to oppose to the merger, along with other related rallies, received more than a few controversial editorial treatment from China Times.
The involvement by students in the September rally was considered the largest in scale since the Wild Lily Movement in 1990. The benchmark was hit partly under the lead of several students that are recognized today as in command of Occupy Parliament. The concern to the editorial process within the WWCT media group still seemed to make sense while CTiTV titled a news clip “Students Cry for Run” to cover the violence under the President Ma’s authority.
The Economics published an article in April 2013[source], by quoting from a sophisticated study in book from Oxford University Press, pointed out the parent company of WWCT that held tremendous influence among speech market in Taiwan received subsidies from PRC Government that made a contribution of 11.3% to its net profit, or US$ 47 million in one year.