Written by Wu Yue

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  • Area: 35,883 square kilometres
  • Population: 23,552,470 (June 2017)
  • Capital: Taipei
  • State form: semi-presidential republic
  • Official language: Chinese, Formosan languages, Hakka
  • Religions: Buddhist (35 per cent), Taoist (33 per cent) Atheist (18.7 per cent) (2017)

  • Flag of Taiwan

    Taiwan’s sovereignty is controversial. Western countries generally believe that it is an independent sovereign state, but China believes that Taiwan is an inseparable part of its territory. The United Nations recognise Taiwan as a province of China. According to the principle of “one country and two countries systems”, Taiwan enjoys a high degree of autonomy. Therefore, the media system should be analysed separately from the Chinese mainland. According to the annual Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders (RSF), Taiwan is ranked 45 out of 180 countries in the world in 2017. The media environment in Taiwan is among the freest in Asia, and extremely competitive. Taiwan’s media-related legislation and jurisdiction are relatively comprehensive to protect the freedom of the press, but the media is polarised and becomes more and more influenced by mainland China (in economic and political aspects). Characterized by indirect state influence and no specific media mission, we sorted Taiwan amongst Liberalism in our typology.
    Communication policy and regulations
    Political Environment
    Taiwan’s media landscape is diverse, but polarised. In the context of Taiwan’s divided politics, the media, as the fourth estate, become the object of political forces to a certain extent. Most outlets are sympathetic to either the KMT or the opposition, pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) (Freedom House, 2016). Especially Taiwan’s major terrestrial TV networks tend to be politically partisan.
    Pro-mainland media, which are mainly sympathetic to the KMT, the People First Party and the Chinese Unity Promotion Party, are known as pro-blue media; correspondingly, pro-independence media, which are e.g. sympathetic to DPP are commonly known as pro-green media (as the KMT flag is blue and the DPP flag is green). The main difference between pro-blue media and pro-green media lies in their implicit political stance and attitude towards mainland China. But what needs to be pointed out is that, there is no absolutely pro-blue or pro-green media, considering the tendency of following the way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging.
    The censorship from the government has been remarkably weakened since 1987. Nowadays, there is no official censorship in Taiwan and the focus of the censorship is on slander and libel, cross-strait relations and information about national security. Laws which prohibit the promotion of independence from China or communism are not generally enforced (BBC, 2014). Political polarisation, self-censorship and indirect influence from Beijing limit the diversity of opinions represented in the mainstream media in Taiwan, according to a survey released by Washington-based Freedom House (2016). The main body of the censorship is the National Communications Commission (NCC), an independent statutory agency of Executive Yuan regulating the information, communications and broadcasting industry in Taiwan. It was established in 2006 according to the “NCC Organizing Law”. The creation of NCC is modelled from the FCC of the USA and has become the highest competent authority of the communications and broadcasting industry of Taiwan. The NCC is currently considering replacing the existing legislation with a single, all-encompassing piece of legislation.

    Legislation and jurisdiction
    There is no single piece of legislation governing all media platforms in Taiwan. The legitimacy of freedom of the media is based on Article 11 of the Constitution of Taiwan: The people shall have freedom of speech, teaching, writing and publication (Article 11, 1947). The Freedom of Government Information Law, established in 2005, “enables public access to information held by government agencies, including financial audit reports and documents about administrative guidance”. (Freedom House, 2016)
    “Print media are free from state regulation. Following reforms in recent years, broadcast media are no longer subject to licensing and programming reviews by the Government Information Office, which was formally dissolved in 2012. The National Communications Commission is Taiwan’s main regulatory body, and is tasked with awarding licenses and enforcing broadcasting guidelines. It is generally regarded as independent, though it has faced criticism for some licensing decisions in recent years, and contentious cases draw public and political pressure.” (Freedom House, 2016).
    Broadcasting service platforms are regulated by distinct sets of legislation. Three related laws are Taiwan’s Radio and Television Broadcasting Law, the Cable Radio and Television Broadcasting Law (both most recently amended in January 2016) and the Satellite Radio and Television Broadcasting Law (most recently amended in November 2016) (Lee, 2017).
    In order to promote technological convergence, these three laws have been repeatedly updated since 2002. The changes are mainly related to a media reform movement, that wants to “end government, military and political party ownership of the broadcast media” (Declaration End government, military and political party ownership of three main television stations, 1995).
    It is worth mentioning that, according to Article 25 of the Radio and Television Broadcasting Law, all programming by the stations may be subjected to screenings by the regulatory agency. However, news content is not affected by the examination of the competent authority.
    Media offers
    News agency
    The state-owned news agency is called Central News Agency (CNA) and is operated by the Government of Taiwan. On July 1, 1996, according to the “Central News Agency Regulations”, it began to provide services at home and abroad. Based in Taipei, the CNA sends out news in Chinese, English, French, Spanish, and Japanese. There is also an official English-language news channel of the state-run Central News Agency: it is called Focus Taiwan. CNA has overseas branches in 35 countries. It works with a number of well-known news agencies around the world, such as the US-based Associated Press, Reuters and France-based Agence France-Presse (CNA, 2017).

    Taiwan’s TV industry started relatively late but developed rapidly. The first television station, the Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV), was founded in 1962. Soon it was followed by the China Television Company (CTV) and the Chinese Television System (CTS). In the 1990s, these three television stations gradually began their privatisation process. At the same time, the Formosa Television (FTV) affiliated with the DPP, which was part of the liberalisation of electronic media.
    “Public television has undergone a major reorganisation since July 1, 1998, with the establishment of the Public Television Service (PTS) under the provisions of the Public Television law of May 1997” (Press reference, 2016). The PTS’s aim is “to serve the interests of the public, raise the standards of Taiwan’s broadcast culture, safeguard the public’s freedom of expression and access to knowledge, and enhance national education and culture” (ibid.).
    Taiwan has comprehensively entered the digital TV era since June 30, 2012 according to government orders.
    Similarly, to the radio system, there are many stations broadcasting a wide variety of programming in Taiwan. The national and regional broadcasting is governed by the Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC), which is used for publicising the government’s policies affecting business and taxation, education and culture, and domestic and foreign politics. The national broadcaster CBS-Radio Taiwan International also beams services to mainland China and the rest of the world in various languages and Chinese dialects (BBC, 2014).
    The government-run Public Radio System (PRS) offers travel, weather, social information across Taiwan. Taiwan’s only national and the most important all-English station, is the International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT). It is owned by the International Community Cultural Foundation, is available across Taiwan and on Internet audio. The UFO Network is the second largest station in Taiwan. Playing all different kinds of music, UFO Network has become very popular and its broadcasts have also become well known overseas.

    A major landmark in the history of Taiwanese press publishing occurred in January 1988, when newspaper licensing and publishing were liberalised (Press reference, 2016). Since then, the press industry has flourished. According to the GIO statistics (2012), there are 2,273 newspapers and 7,088 magazines in Taiwan, reflecting a wide range of views.
    Most newspapers are private, and only a few are governmental. The top four newspapers by circulation are:Liberty Times (pro-green), Apple Daily (entertaining), United Daily News (pro-blue) and China Times (pro-blue). In addition to these four newspapers, local newspapers also have certain influences. The English-language newspaper market was dominated by the China Post and the China News, which changed its name to the Taiwan Times for a long time.
    Magazines are various in different contents. There has been a phenomenal growth of non-political magazines in Taiwan since 1988. On the other hand, the political magazines have suffered because of the Internet and cable television. The weeklies and biweeklies have declined, giving way to monthlies, bimonthlies, and quarterlies (Press reference, 2016).

    According to the statistics of Internet World Stats, there were 20,601,364 internet users by March 31, 2017, which is 88 per cent of Taiwan’s population.
    2016 statistics showed that Taiwan’s four major portals are Baidu, Google, Yahoo, and Sina. Taiwan’s top two news sites ETToday and United Daily News are also facing the pressure from instant news of social-networking sites (Business Next, 2017).
    Journalists' autonomy
    Education, professionalization and ethics
    According to statistics of the Ministry of Education of Taiwan (2017), there are journalism studies (Faculties of Journalism or Mass Communication) in about 20 universities in Taiwan.
    Unlike mainland China, Taiwan’s press cards are issued directly by the media itself without scrutiny from the government. Although television stations and more “senior” print media had to achieve the government’s permissions before publishing, nowadays, there has been no need for online media to gain the consent of the government before establishment. In other words, Taiwan’s determination for journalists is relatively loose. Anyone with or without professional education can “claim” himself/ herself as a journalist. In recent years, Taiwan’s “citizen journalists” are springing up, and this phenomenon also led to a certain controversy.
    The independent non-governmental organisation for Taiwanese professional journalists, the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ), was founded in 1995. Taiwanese journalists and journalism students are free to apply for a membership. The ATJ is committed “to protect the working, legal and social rights and to promote professional ethics among reporters, editors and all other news workers in print, broadcasting, television or other media. The ATJ is also committed to the struggle for news freedom, to raise professional standards, to protect the independence and autonomy of news workers and to fulfil the responsibilities of the news media as an institution for public interests. Since 1998, the ATJ has been a full member of the International Federation of Journalists” (IFJ) (ATJ, 2017).
    A comparative study about ethical attitudes and perceived practice of journalists in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in 2009 showed, that journalists in these tree places were facing certain common ethical issues. As the results showed, operating in the environment of commercial media and zeal for democratisation, the ethical principles on separating different interests and maintaining autonomy were made quite salient and appealing to Taiwanese journalists. These ideas had not been recognised as part of the professional ethos of journalism in Taiwan. However, one can extrapolate from the data that the prospect of developing such an ethos is good as Taiwan stabilises its democratic process (Wenhui, 2009).

    Reputation of media and journalism in society
    According to the annual Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders (RSF), Taiwan is ranked 45 out of 180 countries in the world. It is said to be the freest place in Asia in 2017. Also, RSF opened its first Asia bureau in Taipei in April 2017. But this does not mean that people trust their media correspondingly.
    As ever more journalists are needed to meet the demands of the market, the quality of journalism has become a topic of increasing debate (Wang, 2014). Due to the rapid change and quick development, the media in Taiwan is in an acrimonious competition environment, which has been transformed by Taiwan’s political and cultural liberalisation. In order to earn a higher Nielsen rating in such a competitive market, sometimes the shows tend to include sexual and violent contents. Sensational headlines are often picked up. Taiwan is now grappling with the free-press problems faced by many developed countries in the digital age, including an over saturation of questionable content.
    In the dominant commercial media market structure, journalists enjoy relatively free and safe working conditions in Taiwan. But correspondingly, the most serious problem in the Taiwanese media industry lies in the relationship between news producers and media owners, from whom interference with the freedom of the press comes. Mainland China’s attempt to influence Taiwan’s media freedom is also a part of this, especially in economic and political aspects. A large-scale industrial labour situation survey released by the end of October 2014, which was organised by “The Media Worker Labor Rights Group”, showed that journalists’ salaries continued to shrink since 2003; the average weekly working hours are about 54 hours, 9 hours higher than the average of other industries; more than half of the interviewed reporters feel physically and mentally exhausted (Chen Boqian, 2014).
    In a word, Taiwanese media workers are now generally faced with long-term unpaid overtime work and lack of reasonable rest. The increasing importance of online instant news, results in a sudden increase in labour intensity. So, on the long run, Taiwanese journalists’ physical and mental health problems are naturally not surprising.

    Related Links
    Recommended citation form
    Wu Yue: Taiwan. In: Michael Meyen (ed.), Mapping Media Freedom. LMU Munich: Department of Communication Studies and Media Research 2017. http://mappingmediafreedom.de/taiwan/ (access date)

    In the streets of Taipei

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