Want Want Group, a Taiwanese conglomerate initially known for its food production, is currently in the process of purchasing China Network Systems, one of Taiwan’s leading cable television companies. While the acquisition might appear trivial in a world of day-to-day big business ventures, the possible purchase, along with its pending application, have provoked quite the ruckus amongst journalists, lawmakers, and citizens alike, for varied, yet equally interesting reasons.
Media personnel have been among the first to question the benefit of such a merger. After all, this is not Want Want Group’s first media purchase. The company is also in possession of the China Times Group, which runs an array of media outlets including a few television channels and newspapers, the most significant of which being the China Times – one of the four biggest newspapers in Taiwan. According to National Taiwan University Graduate Institute of Journalism professor Flora Chang, Want Want’s management of China Times has been unprofessional at best, especially in its back-door publication of mainland Chinese advertorials. Chang states:
China is an autocratic one-party regime with no system of [civilian] oversight, nor is there an independent judiciary. The role of the [Chinese] media is to be the mouthpiece of the government, [with] seriously limited press and speech freedom. Therefore, the Chinese government’s placing of advertorials in Taiwanese press is a method of using Taiwanese media as their mouthpieces and promote Chinese governmental ideology and manipulating Taiwan’s press reportage.
At the very least, the issues that have arisen out of the Want Want Group’s pending purchase can be considered suspicious. Flora Chang argues that the core question of any media buyout is whether or not the venture is beneficial for the public. If the merger results in biased media and/or restrictions on free speech, the National Communications Commission has much to consider in its review of Want Want’s application.
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