Seeking “Discourse Power”, Taipei plans to merge Radio Taiwan International, CNA, and Public Television

Note: Links within blockquotes added during translation.

A short article on the website of Public Media Alliance, an international, UK-based association of public broadcasters, reported early this year that Taiwan’s ministry of culture was drafting legislation to integrate the country’s public television services (PTS), the Central News Agency (CNA) and Radio Taiwan International (RTI) “into one independent organisation”.

Radio Taiwan International QSL, 2018

The draft appears to be taking shape now, and rapidly so: CNA reported on Thursday last week that

Since minister of culture Cheng Li-chun‘s appointment, a review of public broadcasting corporations have been conducted, and so far, the ministry of culture has, after communicating, consulting and engaging in dialog with Public Television Service Foundation, Chinese Television System, Central News Agency, Radio Taiwan International‘s boards of directors, labor union representatives, and experts and scholars, reached a consensus, completed a legislative draft, and announced it to the public today.

文化鄭麗君部長上任以來,即啟動公廣集團發展之檢討,自106年7月迄今,文化部已跟公視基金會、華視、中央通訊社、中央廣播電臺的董事會、工會代表及專家學者們召開十幾場諮詢會議,經過不斷地內外溝通、協商、對話後取得共識,完成修法草案並於今天對外公告。

CNA also emphasized that union representatives were “invited to jointly participate in formulating the approach to integration, and actively protect the employees’ rights and interests” (將邀集工會代表共同參與整合辦法的訂定,積極保障員工權益).

This isn’t a particularly clear-cut definition of what union representatives may or may not be entitled do to exert influence in the process, but contary to Taiwan’s private sector, where they are extremely weak, unions do have a role to play in public institutions.

That said, the base for unionised work in those institutions may be much weaker than what mere numbers suggest. For example, the only permanent employee at RTI’s German-language service in 2013 was the head of the department herself, according to the station’s German listeners club, while a number of further members of the department were freelancers.

Taiwan’s Commercial Times (工商時報) reported on Friday that the draft should be sent to the Executive Yuan (basically the cabinet of ministers and chief commissioners) in October, reach the Legislative Yuan by the end of the year, and pass its third reading in June next year.

Overall, about 1,400 employees will be affected, of which 800 work for public television, with revenues of 2,000,000,000 two billion NT dollars for public television, 500 million NT dollars for Central News Agency and Radio Taiwan International combined, and 1.4 billion NT dollars for Chinese Television System. The combined budget was nearly 3.6 billion NT dollars last year.

The Commercial Times:

Cultural minister Cheng Li-chun emphasized that as Taiwan was facing the digital age and market competition, it lacked a cultural propagation strategy on a national level. Also, the existing content was lacking propagation channels, and there was a serious imbalance for incoming and outgoing international culture. Similarly, because of insufficient budgets, legislature and integration, public media were unable to play their propagation role, let alone mastering the power of speech [or discourse power] internationally. Therefore, the ministry of culture wanted to promote the “public media law” for the integration into a public media platform, following NHK’s [Japan’s public radio and television] role as an up-and-coming Asian public broadcaster.

文化部長鄭麗君強調,面對數位匯流時代與市場競爭,台灣缺乏一個國家級的文化傳播戰略,且有內容也缺乏通路,目前國際文化內容輸出入嚴重失衡;同樣在公共媒體方面,因為預算、法制、整合皆不足,也沒有發揮公共傳播的角色,更無法在國際上掌握話語權。所以文化部希望推動《公共媒體法》,讓公媒平台大整合,繼NHK之後成為亞洲新興公共媒體。

Indeed, according to the CNA article on Thursday, the ministry of culture intends to

[…] further promote cultural propagation in the digital age. The public media can provide information domestically, serve different ethnic groups, strengthen cultural affirmation. Internationally, they will not only be able to share Taiwanese culture with the world, but can also become the world’s most trusted newly emerging public media in Asia.

[…..] 進一步推動數位時代的文化傳播。公共媒體對於國內可以提供公共資訊、服務多元族群、強化文化平權;而面對國際,不僅可以與世界分享台灣文化,也能夠成為最受國際信賴的亞洲新興公共媒體。

Apart from the domestic services, NHK also runs Japan’s international media units. Under the name of “NHK World – Japan”, they “intend to establish wider global recognition for the service’s Japanese roots in advance of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games”.

China has taken a similar approach earlier this year, blending domestic broadcasting with international broadcasting.

In its report on Thursday, CNA claims that board members of the media organisations, managers, and union representatives involved had all expressed approval and support 贊同與支持) for the draft at an information meeting on the same day. That could be true: journalists tend to be fans of reflecting ethnic diversity and affirmation, and the ministry of culture also offers more features in its draft that may be convincing. Apart from (apparently) including some kind of labour director in the planned new board, the term of every board member is said to be four years, with appointments*) of half of the body every two years.

If that helps to avoid resignations of the kind reported in October 2008, when the Ma administration took office, that should help to build trust among employees, and the public.

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Notes

*) to be suggested by the executive, and approved by the legislative yuan

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