Taiwan: When News is Sold to the Chinese Government
In recent years, more and more Taiwanese media workers have been worried that press freedom has been eroding since the lifting of martial law in 1987. In fact, Taiwan's ranking in Freedom House's Annual Press Freedom Report has been regressing since 2008.
In addition to the “embedded marketing” practice which cloaks advertising as news and makes journalistic articles less reliable, the mainland China government has extended influence on the Taiwan public sphere through news industry acquisitions.
Influence of mainland China
On May 7, 2012, a public hearing was held because the Want Want China Times group plans to acquire the second largest cable television system in Taiwan. Since Taiwanese businessman Tsai Eng-Meng purchased the media group in November 2008, China Times, one of the most influential newspapers in Taiwan, has made a subsequent change in editorial policy [zh] in the direction of softening criticism of the Ma administration, Beijing, or improvements in cross-strait ties.
More than 50 social science and journalism professors in Taiwan signed up to the ‘Reject China Times' campaign [zh] in February 2012, in response to Tsai's interview with the Washington Post, in which he claimed that the June 4 Massacre (Tiananmen Square) did not happen.
The campaign statement pointed out that:
The further expansion of Want Want China Times from printed media to cable television has undoubtedly alerted many Taiwanese. In fact in the recent public hearing, Tsai admitted that he had received money from the mainland Chinese authorities to publish “news” that propagates a positive imagine of mainland China. However, his defence was that “embedded marketing” has been a common practice in Taiwan and there is no reason to stop China Times from doing it.
Journalism Professor Chang Chin-hwa pointed out that such political advertisement is a potential threat to national security (via a report from ‘Reject China Times‘ [zh] campaign website:
For years, the issue of “embedded marketing” has been criticized by many media workers. Back in 2010, an experienced journalist Dennis Huang (黃哲斌), quit his job on the China Times and launched an online protest [zh] against embedded marketing:
從昨天起，我離開了工作十六年又五個月的《中國時報》。 我越來越難獨善其身、越來越難假裝沒看到，其他版面被「業配新聞」吞噬侵蝕的肥大事實，新聞變成論字計價的商品，價值低落的芭樂公關稿一篇篇送到編輯桌上，「這是業配，一個字都不能刪」。 然後，它們像是外星來的異形，盤據了正常新聞版面，記者努力採訪的稿件被擠壓、被丟棄。記者與主管被賦予業績壓力，不得不厚著面皮向採訪對象討預算、要業配。
我更相信，「人生總有非賣品」。 例如，讀者的信任；例如，專業判斷與良知；例如，自己的人格與報社的信譽；例如，寫或不寫的自由權利。 業配新聞破壞了這一切，奪走了這一切，它以每字一、兩百元的代價，將新聞變成廉售的開架商品。
Written by Huma Yusuf