New Authoritarianism in Politics and Media Meddling with Taiwan’s Public Television

By Li Chia-wei

China Times, September 18, 2021


The Ministry of Culture announced a draft revision of the Public Television Act. In addition to reducing the number of board of directors and lowering the threshold for the selection of directors and supervisors, it also includes that the chairman of the board of directors will be appointed by the Executive Yuan, new international broadcast services and exchanges, and an expansion of the government current annual subsidies of NT$900 million (about US$32.4 million) cap limit. This makes people "furrow their brows and realize that this case is not simple.” The ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) lack of separation between the government and the media have long been criticized by people from all walks of life, and even their own people. However, this amendment not only blatantly tramples on the DPP’s own long-term proposition that "the party, the government, and the military should be out of the media", but also has a hint of the mainland’s “public propaganda” style. It causes fear that the Taiwan Broadcasting System (TBS) will become a tooled for propaganda domestically and internationally for the ruling party.


If the Ministry of Culture were seeking to solve the problem of the inefficiency of the board of directors and the frequent difficulties in selecting the directors and supervisors, and therefore wanted to amend the law in order to solve it, it is understandable and there would be no room for discussion, since after all, this is a long-standing problem in the operation of the current system. However, the political appointment of the chairman has nothing to do with being a resolution for these problems. Whether it is from the DPP members or the Executive Yuan’s version of the law revision proposal, such a proposal has not been seen before. It is a first in public television organizations worldwide. Perhaps the reason for legislation is the same as Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung's answer regarding mixing Medigen with other vaccines. They reflect worries that Taiwan will never be able to lead the pack.


The Minister of Propaganda of the German Nazi Party, Goebbels, who is regarded as a genius in propaganda, once said that propaganda has only one goal: to conquer the masses. “A lie will not become the truth even if repeated a thousand times, but if a lie is repeated a thousand times, and no one is allowed to expose it, many people will then regard it as the truth." We seem to see a shadow of Goebbels when it comes to Taiwan’s information to the public when it comes to epidemic prevention and vaccine procurement policies.


Of course, Goebbels is even more aware of the oversight and lethality of a diverse array of media on those in power, so he said without hesitation that "the radio must be designed to only able to listen to German radio stations." In reality, only communist and centralized regimes like the Russian Communist Party, the Chinese Communist Party, North Korea, and Nazi Germany in the world need to have the media directly controlled by the government. They are well aware of the importance of controlling people’s hearts in order to consolidate their status and achieve their political goals, and they regard the media as a tool for national propaganda, and won’t allow them to hold them back. This is a sharp contrast to democratic countries’ view of the media as the fourth power of supervision on the government.


It is not that Taiwan has not experienced the lessons of the media being infiltrated by politics, but the DPP, who supposedly single-handedly pushed for politics to be out of the media, has tried every means to follow in previous footsteps after overthrowing the old authority. In particular, it is not surprising for Premier Su Tseng-chang to directly intervene in the media. You can see his participation in the removal of CtiTV News and in the further selection of who replaces CtiTV News. Recently, there has been a chaos of external auditors’ strikes in the evaluation case of Mirror Media. The supposedly independent National Communications Commission cannot seem to stop the interference from politics. Premier Su and the DPP’s further attempts to secure the TBS has once again revealed their intentions.


When the DPP was the opposition party, the DPP called for the party, government, and military to withdraw from the media, but after taking power, it has immersed themselves in the media, amended the law to lower the threshold for a referendum, and raised its threshold after being scolded by the public, castrating the power of the referendum. Same with the Legislative election system, and constitutional amendment threshold. They have one set of rules when they are the opposition party, and a whole other set when they are in power. If they are not satisfied with something, they just forcibly change it.


It has single handedly killed CtiTV News and has extended its other hand into the TBS, using public resources as the propaganda machine for its own party. A new DPP authoritarian government with no distinction between the government and media is rapidly taking shape. Among democratic countries, the government controlling the public media, Taiwan is the only one.



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