On July 25, 2012, Taiwan media regulator the National Communications Commission (NCC) finally approved Want Want China Times’ acquisition of 60% of the country's second largest cable television services – previously owned by China Network Systems (CNS).
The acquisition process had been under review for 18 months as the media organization has been involved in a number of scandals regarding ‘self-censorship’ practices that “erase words that are critical of China“, which became an issue in particular after Tsai Eng-Meng, a Taiwanese businessman who has strong ties with mainland China, purchased China Times in 2008.
Concerns over press freedom
Many media and journalism scholars are worried that Want Want China Times’ extension into the cable business will result in further monopoly of media in Taiwan, and a strong influence of the mainland Chinese government into Taiwanese politics.
As a compromise, the NCC introduced three conditions into the agreement: 1. Want Want China Times has to sell one of their television channels, Chung Tien Television; 2. China Television (CTV) has to turn into a non-news channel; and 3. CTV must establish an independent editorial system.
Disappointed by the NCC's decision, a number of scholars protested outside the NCC office on the day the announcement was made. They believe [zh] that Want Want China Times will bring harm to freedom of press in Taiwan, as well as professional and independent journalism:
Dramatically, whilst NCC was willing to compromise, Tsai withdrew from the conditional terms and claimed that the Want Want China Times Group will not sell Chung Tien Television to anyone [zh].
In addition, as if to retaliate against one of the scholars, Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) – a research fellow at Academia Sinica who has been a major public opinion leader against the acquisition – various Want Want media outlets, including Chung Tien TV and China Times, accused Huang of paying students to protest outside the NCC on July 25. In addition, they claimed that Huang was planning to flee to the United States.
Huang Kuo-chang clarified in a press conference [zh] that he only organized the scholars to read the statement in front of the NCC and was not aware of the student protest which came after the scholar petition. Whilst Jean Liu, Huang's wife, explained [zh] via Facebook that their trip to the US is funded by the Fulbright Senior Scholar's Program, which was approved in early May 2012.
At the same time, Taiwan's Apple Daily reported that some netizens had identified [zh] the deputy editor of the Times Weekly, one of the Want Want media outlets, amongst the student protesters and speculated that the whole incident was a staged scandal to assassinate Huang's character.
Frustrated by Want Want China Times’ abuse of media power, on July 28 the Association of Taiwan Journalists posted a statement [zh] on their Facebook page:
Renewtwculture [zh] created a news package about the incident and commented: