Local media, politicians should stay away from ‘truthiness’
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.