The legislature’s Education and Culture Committee announced it would hold a public hearing on Thursday over amendments to the Public Television Act (公共電視法).
Among other things, the amendments, which passed a review by the Executive Yuan earlier this month, would lower the threshold for the election of a president and supervisor at the Taiwan Public Television Service Foundation (PTS) from three-fourths to two-thirds.
In addition, the number of members on the PTS board would be reduced from the current 17 to 21 seats to between 13 and 17.
The proposed amendment has been severely criticized by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), who also doubles as convener of the Education and Culture Committee.
Kuan said the draft amendment failed to address key issues such as whether to include Hakka and Aborigine TV channels in the PTS system, an oversight that risked undermining ethnic media coverage and ignored the healthy development of the PTS as a whole.
Kuan also accused President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration of seeking to turn the media into a bargaining tool for political gain.
The insertion of the clause: “In the event that a new president cannot be found at the conclusion of the current president’s term in office, the tenure of the current president will be extended until such time as a new president is appointed” in the act was a transparent attempt to extend the presidency of the fourth-term president, Kuan said.
Another clause in the draft amendment, which states: “If the PTS chairman is found to be guilty of causing the PTD Foundation to lose money through his own illegal actions, he will be expected to repay the foundation said losses” was a direct attack on the previous PTS chairman Cheng Tung-liao (鄭同僚), Kuan said.
Kuan also questioned the reason for lowering the voting threshold to select the president and supervisor.
“They think that now that they have removed the threat posed by Cheng and chief executive Sylvia Feng [馮賢賢], they can do whatever they want,” Kuan said, adding that the amendment appeared to be highly political in nature.
Feng’s contract was scheduled to expire in December.
Her dismissal in August sparked accusations by the Democratic Progressive Party and media watchdogs — including Reporters Sans Frontieres — of political maneuvering and failure by the government to respect the independence of the media. She was replaced by Ming Hwa Yuan Taiwanese Opera director Chen Sheng-fu (陳勝福), a staunch Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supporter, who stepped in as acting chairman.
The problems at PTS go back to June 2009 after the legislature passed an amendment to the act enlarging the PTS’ board of directors, with the Government Information Office (GIO) immediately approving eight new members.
The decision paralyzed day-to-day operations at the broadcaster after the Control Yuan found “major flaws” in procedures surrounding the appointments.
In January last year, an injunction by the Taipei District Court prevented the new directors from taking office.
Three months later, the GIO filed a lawsuit against six of the 11 remaining directors, accusing them of “illegally holding meetings” without the necessary two-thirds quorum.
In a counter suit, the group said they were legally mandated to hold meetings once a month to continue PTS operations.
Additional reporting by Staff Writer
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