Taiwan waits for watchdog

Hsieh's exit among org's complications

TAIPEI — Taiwan must wait a little longer for its media regulatory authority, the National Communications Commission, to be up and running.

The watchdog got caught up in the political infighting that prompted Prime Minister Frank Hsieh’s resignation mid-January.

Moves to replace the present media authority, the Government Information Office, with the more powerful NCC began in 2004, after the GIO was unable to control a news media relying on sensationalism to woo auds.

After much political wrangling, the law establishing the NCC passed in November. It’s 13 members — politicos, professors and other prominent citizens — were approved on Jan. 12.

Hsieh had until the Chinese New Year at the end of January to approve the NCC bill. But his resignation has thrown it into doubt.

To add to the complications, before his resignation Hsieh called on Taiwan’s highest court to rule on the NCC’s constitutionality.

In question is who has the power to appoint the commission’s members.

Under the current system, the legislative body nominates members to the NCC. That gives the opposition parties, who control the legislature, an overwhelming majority.

Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian and Hsieh argue that the executive branch has the right to appoint members and that the commission has, in effect, been held hostage to political interests.

To date, Taiwan’s Supreme Court hasn’t put the NCC case on its docket.

New Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang was sworn in Jan. 25.

Meanwhile, the GIO is anything but a lame duck.

Earlier this month, it prepared controversial recommendations for its successor, including a proposed primetime quota on foreign programming on terrestrial stations.

GIO has also spearheaded a reform campaign to purge media outlets of political and foreign influence, even threatening to shutter one cable news station unless it could explain its financial backing.

In addition, the GIO has initiated a move to relocate one terrestrial station in the south of the island. Currently, all four of the island’s terrestrial TV stations are based in northern Taipei.

If all this comes to pass, the NCC would face the daunting task of, in the words of one legislator, “cleaning up the GIO’s mess.”

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