by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: 鏡新聞/Facebook

MIRROR MEDIA’S EFFORTS to establish a television network have faced continual issues in the past months. Mirror Media currently hopes to establish a television network called Mirror News. 

Mirror Media had its application to launch a news channel approved by the National Communications Commission (NCC) in January. This is the first approval by the NCC of a news channel in ten years and only took place after two years of review. 

The NCC set 26 regulations for Mirror Media that it had to comply with. The most sensitive of these regulations touched on the separation of the operation of Mirror Media’s newsroom from its management, as well as that Mirror Media must comply by the Anti-Infiltration Act and Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area. Investment from the Chinese government, or from foreign entities seeking to influence Taiwanese politics, would be punished. 

Mirror Media logo

To this extent, much of the NCC”s concerns returned to whether Mirror News would engage in tabloid-style news reporting similar to Mirror Media’s content. In particular, Taiwanese news is known to have poor fact-checking practices, and the NCC’s concerns touch on whether Mirror News becomes a platform for disseminating misinformation and disinformation–something of particular concern given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Chinese “cognitive warfare” targeting Taiwan with misinformation and disinformation. 

At present, Mirror News is expected to launch in May, with Mirror Media’s license lasting six years and allowing broadcasting to start three to six months after receiving the license. Mirror News has recruited over 400 employees and will produce eighteen hours of daily content. This will consist of sixteen hours of real-time news, two hours of in-depth news, one hour of international news, and one hour of cultural content. International news will cover 15% of hourly content. Furthermore, Mirror News asserts that it will be the first news network in Taiwan to feature news targeting juveniles. 

In order to allay the NCC”s concerns, Mirror News also touts that it will employ an ombudsman system, as the first news outlet in Taiwan to do so. 

Indeed, Mirror News’ approval takes place after the NCC ruled against renewing Want Want Group-owned CtiTV’s renewal of its broadcast license in November 2020. Want Want Group-owned television networks and newspapers have been accused of taking Chinese state funding and say in their editorial direction from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office. Likewise, in May 2019, CtiTV gave 70% of its airtime to coverage of its preferred presidential candidate, Han Kuo-yu.

Although CtiTV also had an ombudsman before its license was not renewed, this individual, Shih Hsin University vice president Chen Ching-ho, stated that he did not have time to review the network’s content as a whole. By contrast, Mirror News’ ombudsman will be given an office, have a full-time position, and have two assistants. 

At the same time, NCC members have been vocal in their skepticism of Mirror News. Two NCC members published an open letter in February that was skeptical of the network’s ability to maintain adequate funding since the network claimed that 30% of revenue would come from producing content for government agencies, but it was unclear as to who would control the network. 

National Communications Commissions Ren’ai Road Headquarters. Photo credit: Solomon203/WikiCommons/CC

Under the provisions of Mirror News’ license, it must increase its assets from 1.35 billion NT to 2 billion NT within six months. Shareholders could not own more than 15% of the company, Mirror News staff could not be part of the board or management, and half of Mirror News’ board had to be non-shareholders.

Concerns about the possibility of management interfering in the newsroom’s operation has already been raised. Namely, in March, Mirror News quickly swapped between four different chairman and reshuffled its board in rapid succession. Among those named as chair include former Chunghwa Telecom chair Cheng Yu, the most recent chair, film director Yang Ya-che, and Paper Windmill Theatre founder Lee Yung-feng. Among the reasons for removals included allegations that there had been interference from the chair in the news management of the company. 

Some rumors suggest that NCC head Chen Yaw-shyang approved Mirror News’ license as a result of DPP factionalism. TPP legislators Tsai Pi-ru and Lai Hsiang-ling have criticized Mirror News for illegally sharing staff with other branches of Mirror Media. NPP legislator Chen Jiao-hua also criticized that Mirror News officials were found to be paying 100,000 NT to former NCC officials in consultation fees, suggesting kickbacks to try and pull strings, though calls to investigate by Chen were reportedly blocked by DPP legislators. 

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