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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs