NCC rejects Want Want-CNS merger
The National Communications Commission rejected Taiwan-based Want Want China Times Group’s bid to purchase major local cable network China Network Systems Feb. 20 because the group failed to meet three conditions the NCC set last year.
“Each condition must be met before the merger can be greenlighted,” NCC Minister Howard S.H. Shyr said. “Judging from the latest application, the NCC ruled that these conditions have yet to be fulfilled.”
Shyr made the remarks following a commission meeting to consider Want Want’s application, which was submitted in December last year after Want Want Chairman Tsai Eng-meng and his family placed 75 percent of their shares in CTiTV in trust with the Industrial Bank of Taiwan.
Shyr said that after consulting with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the agency responsible for enforcing the Trust Act, the NCC found that placing the property in a third-party trust did not change the controlling relations between the owner and property.
Andy Hsieh, director of the NCC legal department, said that if the group finds another way to meet the commission’s conditions, it can file another application.
The NCC granted conditional approval for the merger July 25, requiring that Tsai and his family not be involved with the management of CTiTV’s news channel, that China Television Co. Ltd.’s digital news channel switch its format to a non-news channel, and that China Television establish an independent news editing mechanism.
The Want Want-CNS merger raised concerns over media monopolization and reduced diversity of opinion on TV as Want Want already owns the Chinese-language newspapers China Times and Want Daily, as well as CTiTV, China Television and the magazine China Times Weekly.
If the application were approved, Want Want would control 10 major cable service providers now owned and operated by CNS, and a 23.1 percent share of cable TV subscribers.
The NCC unveiled the same day a draft bill designed to prevent broadcasting monopolies and protect media diversity in Taiwan.
“The purpose of the bill is to ensure a competitive environment for the exchange of information and ideas while guaranteeing journalistic professionalism, self-regulation and independence,” Shyr said.
Containing 53 articles, the draft stipulates that cross-media mergers that could be detrimental to the public interest could be rejected, or approved with attached conditions such as stipulation that a certain channel be shut down, while mergers judged to be definitely harmful to the public interest would be prohibited outright.
For example, the NCC could ban mergers between print and broadcasting media that would result in an overall influence on public opinion comparable to a television viewership rate of more than 20 percent.
Mergers involving news channels or channels airing news programs would not be approved if they would create an influence comparable to a TV viewership rate of 15 percent.
The draft also authorizes the NCC to entrust a professional third party to conduct regular surveys on the readership, listenership and viewership of newspapers, radio stations and TV channels so as to help the commission determine media influences.
Opinions from the academic, government and private sectors will be gauged through public hearings before the NCC submits the draft for Cabinet and legislative review, the official said.