May 2, 2013, by Editor

Taiwan’s Anti-Media Monopoly Movement: Achievements and the future

Written by Chou Ya-Wei.

The beginning of Taiwan’s anti-media monopoly youth movement dates back to July 31, 2012, when we started the first series of protests against the emerging media monopoly in Taiwan. We, mostly young Taiwanese, launched a movement called “I’m a student, I don’t want WantWant-China Times” (我是學生,我反旺中), with the clear message to say no to the WantWant-China Times media group. We came forward with two demands: firstly, we opposed WantWant’s takeover of CNS cable TV operator. Secondly, we wanted CtiTV to apologize for its smear campaign against Professor Huang Kuo-Chang (黃國昌) and Chen Wei Ting(陳為廷). While Professor Huang was accused without evidence of paying students to attend earlier protests against WantWant’s CNS takeover, Chen faced lawsuit threats by China Times editor-in-chief Lin Chao-hsin (林朝鑫) for exposing a snapshot showing Lin among the protesters, raising suspicions about whether he was behind accusations against Prof. Huang.

From then on, thousands of people joined in our movement, and we started the “Taiwan Youth Union of Anti-Media Monopoly” (反媒體巨獸青年聯盟) as a nation-wide movement of university students. The goal of this alliance is to stop the interference of the “China factor” in Taiwan, prevent WantWant consortium’s media monopoly, and to protect the freedom of the press and the diversity of opinion in Taiwan. The “China factor” refers to the increasing power of businessmen with high stakes in China over Taiwan’s media environment, with Tsai Eng-meng’s(蔡衍明) WantWant Empire the most striking example.

On 9 September, 2012, we took part in the “Anti-media Monopoly Demonstration” (反媒體壟斷大遊行) under the joint umbrella of “901 Anti-media Monopoly Alliance” (901反媒體壟斷聯盟) with other civil and media reform groups. We successfully called on ten thousand citizens to go onto the streets, which is the biggest protest organized by groups that are not affiliated with one of the political parties.

In November, a new alarming problem appeared on our agenda. WantWant-China Times media group announced it was going to take over the Next Media in a joint bid with other businesses with interests in China. From our perspective, this deal was even more threatening than the previous CNS Cable TV merger. Firstly, if the deal was going to be approved, Tsai and his associates would be in control of more than 50% of news media by market share. Secondly, Next Media’s Apple Daily (蘋果日報) and Next Magazine (壹週刊) are media outlets that frequently reveal scandals regardless of the implicated political party, therefore the independence of Next Media group as a non-partisan source of information is crucial for the current media environment in Taiwan.

There were series of actions that we decided to undertake to oppose the planned takeover and to raise attention to its dangers. These included a sit-in protest in front of the Executive Yuan on 26 November, another protest in front of the Fair Trade Commission three days later, New Year’s events and the presence of the Alliance at the flag raising ceremony to draw President Ma’s attention to our cause. Another protest followed on January 11, 2013, when 40 of our members entered the Legislative Yuan  to demand that two legislators explain their obstructions regarding an anti-media monopoly law proposal.

Unfortunately, we have encountered more ignorance than engagement from members of the administration (e.g. relevant ministers, President Ma and some members of the legislature whose position does not favor protection of media diversity in Taiwan. In addition to ignorance, we have also encountered police force that we consider inappropriate considering the non-violent nature of our activities. However, we have definitely succeeded in raising the attention of the dangers of media monopoly and more and more people from cultural circles, all kinds of civil groups, and legislators sympathetic to our cause have joined in.

Last but not least, we conducted a tour around Taiwan from January 19 to February 2 under the “On the truck through Taiwan, Unite Everyone” (一車走天涯串連行動) banner. Our purpose was to tour around Taiwan and deliver speeches on the streets of different cities and talk to locals who may not be that familiar with policies being decided in Taipei. Furthermore, we have visited and make connections with local and student civil groups which would ultimately strengthen the outreach of the Alliance beyond the streets of Taipei. Our last action to date took place in front of the Legislative Yuan on 3 April, 2013 when we requested our legislators pledge support for anti-media monopoly act and pass the law as soon as possible.

The Next Media deal eventually did not materialize and we hope that our efforts have contributed to this outcome, as well as helping to raise awareness about the threat of media monopoly among the Taiwanese public. However positive development this is, we must avoid becoming complacent. To prevent one interest group’s control over a majority of media is not our only goal, we also strive for a better media environment and responsible regulatory framework. To this end we also seek greater engagement of our elected officials with civil society movements. We want to act as a watch dog in close cooperation with other grass root initiatives in order to preserve a wide range of independent media and to ensure that a variety of voices is being heard. The road is still long, but we won’t stop fighting for a healthier environment for press freedom of Taiwan.

Ya-Wei Chou is a graduate student of international relations at the National Taiwan University and member of the nation-wide student movement Taiwan Youth Union of Anti-Media Monopoly (反媒體巨獸青年聯盟). This post benefited from interviews with other Alliance members.

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