Culture ministry’s TV festival rule change questioned

Taipei Times

By Yi Hui-tzu, Tsen Te-jung and Sean Lin / Staff reporters, with staff writer

Suspicions have surfaced about the new qualification rules that the Ministry of Culture has set for this year’s Taipei TV Festival, with critics alleging that the regulatory overhaul is aimed at excluding the New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV, 新唐人電視台) channel, which is known for its critical stance on China, from the event.

The new rules listed in the brochures advertising the festival, which is scheduled for September, stipulate that a channel must have a viewership penetration rate of at least 60 percent of all cable TV subscribers to qualify for the event.

The regulations also prohibit the participation of self-funded channels and state that all applicants will be require to submit to an appraisal, but do not elaborate on what the procedure will entail and who will be carrying it out.

Citing an incident during last year’s festival in which dozens of Chinese channels withdrew from the event to protest the participation of NTDTV, Chang Ching-hua (張錦華), a professor at National Taiwan University, said she suspected that the rule changes were directed at the channel.

NTDTV’s outspoken stance against Chinese bureaucracy and programs about Beijing’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners have irked Chinese authorities in the past.

Chang pointed to the eligibility of self-funded and non-funded channels to apply for the event in the past, adding that only a handful of non-funded channels were made to undergo a review before being admitted to the festival, whereas this year, all self-funded channels are completely shut out and all participants are subject to appraisal.

Calling the revised vetting rules “odd,” Chang said they not only undermine the visibility of Taiwanese TV channels on the global stage, but are also overkill for high-quality independent cable TV operators.

In response to the misgivings, the ministry issued a statement yesterday saying that appraisals are conducted every year and that the 60 percent viewership cap was imposed in an effort to boost the sales volumes of high-quality domestic television shows.

However, some TV operators said they found the ministry’s response unconvincing, saying that there are as many as 250 licensed TV channels nationwide and that of these, only 100 are commonly viewed by the general public.

It is inherently unfair to evaluate a channel solely based on its penetration rate, they added.

Original article