by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Solomon203/WikiCommons/CC BY-SA 3.0

THE KMT AND TPP have dug their heels into criticizing the Tsai administration’s appointments for the National Communications Commission (NCC), Taiwan’s media regulatory body.

In particular, the two parties have alleged that the nomination process for the NCC chair was interfered with by a media tycoon, based on Chinese-language reports that claim Taiwan Institute of Economic Research division director would have originally been chair Liu Po-li. The reports claim that Liu was pulled from the intended chairship because of this tycoon opposing his nomination, though such reports have also not specified who this tycoon is. NCC Vice Chair Wong Po-tsung has now been chosen for the position. The legislature will have to approve the appointment, which may mean an upcoming political fight.

To this extent, the KMT and TPP have also claimed that the NCC should be chosen by the new cabinet under President Lai Ching-te and his initial premier, Cho Jung-tai, rather than by the outgoing Tsai administration. This is sometimes a criticism leveled at appointments made by outgoing presidential administrations.

The pan-Blue camp has, in past years, sought to amplify the perception that the NCC is controlled by the DPP and acts at its behest. This has particularly been the case after CtiTV lost its broadcast license. CtiTV was one of the many media outlets acquired by pro-China Taiwanese foodstuff entrepreneur Tsai Eng-meng, with Tsai making no secret of the fact that his aim was to promote positive views of China in Taiwan, especially in light of his substantial business holdings in China. After being acquired by Tsai, such outlets and newspapers generally eschewed critical coverage of China.

It is not uncommon for wealthy entrepreneurs to purchase media outlets in Taiwan, or otherwise become involved in the media, so as to influence Taiwanese elections. For example, the 2024 presidential election saw media personality Jaw Shaw-kong serve as the vice presidential candidate of the KMT ticket. Jaw is the chair of the Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC), though Jaw has faced allegations in the past that he became chair of the BCC because it was one of many KMT party assets that it sought to pass to supporters. This occurred because the KMT anticipated that the DPP might eventually target it over its party assets, largely retained from property seizures that date back to the Japanese colonial period, at some point. One saw similarly with how the Central Motion Pictures Corporation was passed onto KMT legislator Alex Tsai.

In the lead-up to the 2020 presidential elections, 70% of coverage on CtiTV was on Tsai’s preferred KMT presidential candidate, Han Kuo-yu. To this extent, outlets owned by Tsai’s Want Want Group have been reported on as directly accepting funding from the Chinese government and allowing China’s Taiwan Affairs Office to have a say in the placement and editorial direction of articles.

KMT chair Eric Chu. Photo credit: Eric Chu/Facebook

Even so, the Tsai administration cited broadcasts such as alleging that an “auspicious cloud” appeared above a meeting of three KMT mayors, or inflating the crowd count for Han’s mayoral inauguration as Kaohsiung mayor as reasons for removing CtiTV’s broadcast license. The Tsai administration did not go after the network’s links to China, likely because of the political sensitivity.

Since then, the KMT has sought to attack the DPP over the media on a number of fronts. For example, when the Tsai administration banned Taiwanese companies from acting as intermediaries for Chinese over-the-top streaming providers–but did not act to block the content of those streaming providers in Taiwan–the KMT also alleged that this was to censor information, rather than that this was a regulatory concern when the Taiwanese government cannot regulate Chinese streaming providers.

Likewise, the KMT has alleged that the approval for online media outlet Mirror Media to begin broadcasting on television was the result of favoritism by the DPP, which acted to pull strings behind the scenes for Mirror Media’s approval. Similarly, illicit investments by SET News in HomePlus Digital are likely to be criticized by the KMT in the near future, particularly given that SET News leans pan-Green and is historically close to the DPP.

A now partly defunct DPP faction, the “Sea Faction”, was largely backed by SET News founder Lin Kun-hai. The name of the faction, sometimes rendered as the “Taiwan Forward Faction,” was derived from the second character of Lin’s given name, which is the same character as “Sea.” The fate of the faction is somewhat unclear after Lin Kun-hai’s death in February 2022.

It was expected that the KMT would attack the DPP over NCC appointments, with the pan-Blue camp likely to attack any appointments by the outgoing Tsai or incoming Lai administrations. Yet this proves another issue in which the TPP has acted in tandem with the KMT. This proves particularly ironic when a number of Tsai administration NCC officials had their backgrounds in the Anti-Media Monopoly Movement that opposed Tsai Eng-meng’s acquisition of Taiwanese media outlets, and TPP caucus convenor Huang Kuo-chang was originally one of the leading activists of the Anti-Media Monopoly Movement. This would be more broadly part of Huang’s shift to the pan-Blue camp, however.

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