The Problems Affecting Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC):

“Independent Regulatory Body” Becomes a Political Football

July 2007

In Taiwan, in order to eliminate political intervention on broadcasting businesses and to reflect the trend of the times for the integration of broadcasting and telecommunications, the National Communications Commission (NCC) modeled after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States was founded in February, 2006.

However, despite the great expectations that had been placed on the NCC, the newly established media watchdog soon became involved in a fierce tug of war between the ruling and opposition parties. It started with the selection of the 13 NCC commissioners. Taking advantage of the majority status in the Legislative Yuan (Parliament), opposition parties not only railroaded a bill to regulate that the nomination procedure of the commissioners should be in proportion to seats held by parties, based on which the NCC were supposed to consist of 7 commissioners nominated by the opposition parties and 6 by the ruling parties, but also succeeded in setting up an opposition-dominated judging committee for the appointment of commissioners and consequently in gaining an absolute majority in the NCC, with 8 out of 13 members being related to opposition parties. Disillusioned by the political footballing, 4 nominees declined the post. Therefore, the NCC had to start with an unbalanced structure, with 7 commissioners nominated by the opposition parties and 2 by the ruling party. In July last year, the authority of the NCC was further undermined as the Council of Grand Justices of the Judicial Yuan (Supreme Court) ruled a part of the clauses that stipulates the NCC’s selection procedure as unconstitutional. Besides, two NCC commissioners has been suspended from office by the Executive Yuan (Cabinet) over allegation of hiring their relatives without driver’s license as official chauffeurs, which means there are only 7 acting commissioners at the NCC for now, barely securing a majority. Thus the organization is covered all over with wounds now. This article reviews the history and background leading up to the inauguration of the NCC and introduces how the NCC is being evaluated by the related people based on a field research conducted in March this year to explore a direction the NCC should take in the future by comparing it with public service broadcasters that have been quite successful in distancing themselves from partisan maneuvering. The current situation of the NCC is that despite a great expectation put on the establishment of the media watchdog which is independent from any political pressure, it was engulfed by the partisan battle from the start and, unfortunately, has not found any vision for fixing the problems even a year after its foundation. There is not even a hint of improvement in Taiwanese media’s quality, which has been remarkably deteriorated due to overcompetition, represented by a series of scandals including one at the opposition party-related TVBS in March and one at the ruling party-related Sanlih E-Television in May. And yet, the reality is that the NCC’s supervision over the media is not fully functioning, with its “neutrality” being questioned. Simply put, the root cause of this problem is that both ruling and opposition camps in Taiwan is inclined to regard the media not as a “conveyor of facts” but as a “tool for propaganda.” To make the NCC function normally in the near future, changing the commissioners’ selection procedure is not enough; it will be necessary for media NGOs such as the Campaign for Media Reform and the Taiwan Media Watch Educational Foundation, which are deemed as relatively neutral, to take more assertive approaches to address the “reform” of the media’s fundamental attributes.  

The NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research