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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora