News / Asia

Taiwan's Next Media Group Sale Sparks Censorship Fears

Next Media web site front page, November 27, 2012.
Next Media web site front page, November 27, 2012.
Ralph Jennings
Taiwan’s internationally-known Next Media group has become famous for its racy, animated graphics depicting events in the news. But now, there are worries about its future, as its owners contemplate a sale. The potential buyers’ business interests in China could reign-in the group’s creative and controversial content.

Instead of hearing television announcers read off high and low temperatures, viewers in Taiwan get their weather report through a young woman dancing to disco music. She’s among Next Television’s seven Weather Girls, one for every day of the week.

This racy, experimental approach to news has helped Next Media build a worldwide reputation. Next Media’s creative teams work quickly to produce animated parodies of headline grabbing news events. Targets have included Chinese trade practices, U.S. politicians, the global economic slowdown and even golf champion Tiger Woods’ marital problems.

But in Taiwan, the sometimes controversial content has drawn the attention of the island’s broadcast regulators. Now the owner, Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai, fears the government will not let him expand in Taiwan.

So, when a Taiwanese business consortium made an offer to buy Next Media’s daily newspaper, TV operation and two magazines in October, the company went into negotiations.

A key consortium member is Want Want Group Chairman Tsai Eng-meng. His group already controls several Taiwanese media seen as warm toward China, where Tsai has other business interests.

Chu Li, a media studies professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei, says Taiwanese people have a right to worry about China’s influence in the proposed sale.

He says that China is not an open society, so that’s a reason to worry.   He says, if China were an open country then and they intervened, you could scold and criticize them back, but this situation is not as clear.

The company’s Apple Daily newspaper, which has the widest daily circulation in Taiwan, and its colorful magazines have made money.

However, Next Media’s commercial director Mark Simon says the group lost $200 million on its Taiwan television station. But he says that government regulation is the core reason for deciding to sell.

“Along the way we frankly noticed the real problem was that they were looking to regulate us in every way, shape and form,” Simon explained.

Academics in Taiwan are telling the government they fear China is behind the sellers and that the island’s media should stay more politically diversified. Taiwan’s anti-China Democratic Progressive Party calls the proposed sale a national security issue.

Taiwanese media are among the freest in Asia, an outgrowth of the island’s democracy, while China tightly restricts the content of news reports. Taiwanese journalists say China now plants pro-Beijing stories in Taiwanese media to win favor with the island’s public and that it wants more influence.

China has claimed self-ruled Taiwan since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s. Beijing seeks peaceful reunification between the two sides by showing its advantages, such as a fast-growing economy, to people in Taiwan.

Beijing's mission stands in stark contrast to the irreverent and blunt style of Next Media’s most popular content. Its lifelike cartoon spoofs have drawn international media attention and tens of millions of viewers online for poking fun at serious topics.

Melvin Tan, a public television news anchor in Taipei, says Next Media will be remembered for blurring the lines between news and fiction.

“It’s a new kind of news media to a lot of people here in Taiwan, especially. For Apple Daily, which is the newspaper alternative, people read it as if it's 'a real newspaper' and they’re confused about what to believe and what not to believe. It also stimulates the industry and also gave people different choices,” Tan said.

For now, the proposed sale is being postponed after Taiwan’s financial regulator raised questions about the deal.  But Next Media's Simon says an agreement could be reached within the week.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More