Taiwan takes pro-China cable news TV station CTi off the air

A view of Chung T'ien Television's control room in Taipei on Dec 10, 2020.
A view of Chung T'ien Television's control room in Taipei on Dec 10, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI - A pro-China cable TV station has been taken off the air after Taiwan's media regulator found it had failed to address findings of bias and disinformation and declined to renew its licence.

Chung Tien Television (CTi) was removed from the cable TV network in Taiwan on Friday (Dec 11), the day its licence expired.

Prior to going off the air, CTi - which was among Taiwan's most-watched cable news stations - put out a 42-hour marathon live broadcast of its anchors and hosts chatting about their experiences working for CTi, and its 26 years of broadcast history.

The station is owned by Want Want China Times Media Group, which also owns pro-China newspaper The China Times and snack manufacturer Want Want.

Want Want's management is known for being critical of President Tsai Ing-wen's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and the company-owned news outlets produce coverage that leans towards China.

Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC) announced on Nov 18 that it had unanimously decided not to renew CTi's broadcast licence, in effect shutting it down.

NCC chairman Chen Yaw-shyang said CTi had violated broadcast regulations repeatedly, with viewer complaints to the commission growing in the past three years.

Last year alone, CTi was the subject of more than 960 public complaints to the regulator, or about 30 per cent of all complaints about TV programming, he added.

Mr Chen also underlined the lack of balanced news reporting, saying Want Want chairman Tsai Eng-meng meddled in the station's news production.

Mr Tsai has long been an advocate of Taiwan's unification with China.

He is Taiwan's second-richest man with a fortune of US$5.6 billion (S$7.6 billion), after Foxconn founder Terry Gou with US$6.1 billion, based on the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index.

CTi News received much public attention in the weeks leading up to Taiwan's presidential election on Jan 11 this year, when many viewers noticed that the channel dedicated much of its coverage lauding the China-friendly candidate Han Kuo-yu. It zeroed in on details like his demeanor, the way he dressed and the jokes he made.

The NCC's decision to take CTi off the air may be the most severe penalty a local media outlet has received because of its ties with China, but it is not the first time that "red media", or China-leaning media, has made headlines.

In June last year, over 100,000 people marched in Taipei protesting against "red media" that leaned too close to China's political views. Among the protesters were lawmakers from Ms Tsai's DPP, third-party lawmakers and politicians, professors and Internet influencers.

The turnout resulted in Parliament discussions the following week, as DPP lawmakers proposed amending laws governing cross-strait relations and media laws to prevent China from meddling in Taiwan's news production.

CTi has hit back at the NCC, saying the decision was politically motivated, which the NCC chairman dismissed.

Taiwan's main opposition party, the China-friendly Kuomintang (KMT), supported CTi, with KMT chairman Johnny Chiang protesting against "dirtying" the licence renewal decision with political meddling.

A week after the NCC's decision, CTi filed for an injunction but this was rejected by the court. The station said on Monday that it will be filing an appeal, but as of Friday, no appeal had been filed.

After the expiry of its licence, CTi's content can still stream on online platforms such as YouTube, said the NCC.