Taiwan: Pro-Chinese cable news TV licence rejected over disinformation claims

Taiwan’s media regulator announced on November 18 it would not renew the broadcast licence of Chung T’ien Television (CTiTV) over disinformation claims. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) express regret over the regulator’s decision, but also urge media businesses to uphold news professionalism, autonomy and self-discipline.

Media freedom slogans are displayed at the entrance to Taiwan's CTiTV building in Taipei on November 18. Credit: Sam Yeh / AFP

After five months of investigation, the National Communications Commission (NCC) announced it had ruled unanimously against the renewal of Chung T’ien Television’s broadcasting license, which will expire on December 11. The regulator argued the broadcaster, which is known for its pro-Beijing positions, “failed to address serious and frequent findings of bias and disinformation”.

According to the NCC, CTiTV - which is among Taiwan’s most-watched cable news stations - had repeatedly violated the country’s broadcast regulations. In October 2020, the station was fined NT$1.6 million (approx. USD 56k) for violations of its licensing agreement, including failure to abide by appropriate fact-checking conditions. CTiTV is the cable television arm of the pro-Beijing Want Want China Times (WWCT) group, owned by billionaire tycoon Tsai Eng-Meng. The media owner previously endeavored to create a stronger hold on Taiwan’s media through the attempted purchase of digital tabloid Apple Daily in 2012. At that time, ATJ and other Taiwan journalist organisations led protests against the deal, urging the NCC to consider the likely impact on press freedom and media diversity.

Taiwan’s regulator contended the news channel was influenced by the Chinese authorities but did not find any evidence it had received Chinese funding.The NCC also alleged Tsai Eng-Meng had interfered with the broadcaster’s editorial independence. The investigation revealed that CtiTV had come under the control of China Television’s (CTV) chair, Qiu Jia-yu, and had effectively operated without a news director for a period in 2018. 

It is the first time that NCC has stripped a channel of a broadcasting license. The decision provoked outrage from CTiTV and Taiwan’s main opposition party, The Kuomintang, which claims it could have a “chilling effect, strongly impacting press freedom”. “CTi News was one of the few media outlets in Taiwan that is still willing to give groups supporting unification with China a voice”, the political party said. CTiTV continues to deny the accusations levelled against it, saying the decision was "politically motivated" and that it will pursue the case legally. CTiTV currently employs 475 people, including journalists.

On November 19, ATJ advocated the introduction of internal control mechanisms and self-regulation and called on CTiTV to provide guarantees for the protection of labour rights regardless of the outcome of the NCC ruling. ATJ expressed hope that the government and political parties could work together to reduce political intervention in news media operations, calling for a broader dialogue on legal systems and standards to improve professionalism in journalism.

The ATJ said: Given the limited resources for digital media environment, ATJ respects the government`s powers under law to allocate frequencies. However, we urge the NCC and related agencies to offer more complete explanation to society for the reasons behind its decision not to continue CTiTV`s license and to strengthen its own credibility and pluralism in order to avoid ethnic antagonism and to strive for fairer understanding and less conflict in our society.”

The IFJ said: “IFJ calls for greater transparency from the Taiwanese regulator to ensure the decision complies with international press freedom standards and equally urges the CTiTV board to comply with journalistic and ethical principles in its broadcasting.” 

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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