Lo­cal media, politi­cians should stay away from ‘truthi­ness’

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Leg­is­la­tors from the Tai­wan Sol­i­dar­ity Union raised some con­cerns on Tues­day at the an­nounce­ment of a pos­si­ble merger be­tween Far EasTone Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Co. Ltd. and China Net­work Sys­tems Co. (CNS). Stress­ing that the Far Eastern Group has close ties to the rul­ing Kuom­intang (KMT) and Bei­jing author­i­ties, the TSU cau­cus whip called the planned rap­proche­ment be­tween the two media out­lets a fun­da­men­tal “threat” to the free­dom of the press and the coun­try’s sovereignty, and a “ploy” to by­pass Ar­ti­cle 19 of the Ra­dio and Tele­vi­sion Act ( ). Cur­rent leg­is­la­tion pro­hibits the own­er­ship of tele­coms by gov­ern­ments, for­eign com­pa­nies, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the mil­i­tary, but is it for po­lit­i­cal pun­dits to de­cide who is right or wrong? Shouldn’t we ask the opin­ion of the Na­tional Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion (NCC) be­fore blast­ing Far Eastern Corp CEO Dou­glas Hsu ( ) for his al­leged “crimes”?

Or maybe, this is yet another ex­am­ple of Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion co­me­dian Stephen Col­bert’s cre­ative con­cept of “truthi­ness.” The coined phrase refers to the “truth” that a per­son claims to know in­tu­itively “from the gut” with­out re­gard to facts or logic. Truthi­ness can be fur­ther de­scribed as some­thing that “seems like truth” or the “truth that we want to exit.” Col­bert fur­ther ex­plained the mean­ing of truthi­ness in an in­ter­view with The Onion’s A.V. Club in 2006, say­ing: “Truthi­ness is ‘What I say is right, and (noth­ing) any­one else says could pos­si­bly be true.’ It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There’s not only an emo­tional qual­ity, but there’s a self­ish qual­ity.”

We un­der­stand that some might fear that for­eign in­vest­ments might one day con­trol a large stake in Tai­wanese media, which could later re­sult in a neg­a­tive in­flu­ence on Tai­wanese so­ci­ety and im­pact our beloved free­dom to ex­press our opin­ions via lo­cal media chan­nels. At the same time, Tai­wan’s media oper­a­tions could be jeop­ar­dized if ma­jor for­eign in­vestors were to aim for short-term in­vest­ments in or­der to max­i­mize their gains while min­i­miz­ing their costs. Yet, the prob­lem is that we al­ready have a bi­ased, slanted and ly­ing media that heav­ily re­lies on po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors, turn­coat media pun­dits, and cheap en­ter­tain­ment pro­grams. These have long been part of our lo­cal cul­ture and most peo­ple are more than will­ing to ac­cept or de­nounce them ac­cord­ing to their po­lit­i­cal stance or the party in power. The po­lit­i­cally cor­rect truthi­ness is that for­eign media is deca­dent, Chi­nese in­flu­ences equal to a com­mu­nist plot for uni­fi­ca­tion and lo­cal media is cur­rently at the top of its game. How­ever, to quote a well-known philoso­pher, “we do not live in the best of all pos­si­ble worlds.”

The truth is that proper for­eign in­vest­ments could bring in new tech­nol­ogy and man­age­ment skills to sev­eral TV sta­tions, while the merger of sev­eral news chan­nels could per­haps bring in more re­sources and in re­turn bet­ter qual­ity pro­grams for all of us. We all agree that Tai­wan had to set high lim­i­ta­tions for for­eign in­vestors in the past due to the fact that the lo­cal in­dus­try was still de­vel­op­ing in an early stage. Yet, the cur­rent lib­er­al­iza­tion of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions busi­nesses world­wide and the birth of a well-de­vel­oped media cul­ture in Tai­wan has now set the stage for fewer re­stric­tions and more com­pe­ti­tion. Af­ter all, mil­lions of peo­ple nowa­days are us­ing YouTube, Twit­ter, Face­book, Line, What­sApp and the likes to learn about what’s hap­pen­ing around town, while tra­di­tional news out­lets have be­come in­creas­ingly less rel­e­vant to the dig­i­tal gen­er­a­tion. Yet, ac­cord­ing to our lo­cal truthi­ness we should ban all so­cial media as long as they have any Chi­nese in­vestors. That is just non­sense.

To the con­trary, we be­lieve Tai­wan media com­pa­nies should ac­cu­mu­late ex­pe­ri­ences from work­ing with for­eign in­vestors and the knowl­edge they bring in in­stead of overly re­ly­ing on lo­cal in­vest­ment and po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions, es­pe­cially to pre­vent the in­dus­try from col­laps­ing af­ter in­vestors un­ex­pect­edly back out if prof­its are de­creas­ing. Tai­wan should also ap­ply the newly ac­quired knowl­edge to tak­ing so­cial and tra­di­tional media to other mar­kets. That is the mean­ing of for­mer U.S. Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Tai­wan as “a bea­con of democ­racy in Asia and the world” in a con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sage he sent to Ma Ying-jeou af­ter Ma was elected Tai­wan’s pres­i­dent in March 2008. If we agree that Bush spoke the truth about Tai­wan that day, we also need to agree that lo­cal media and politi­cians should re­think and un­der­stand the er­rors of pro­tec­tion­ism in the media in­dus­try and stay away from “truthi­ness” in the fu­ture.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.