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September 22, 2017

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NCC out of excuses on ruling over Want Want's CNS bid

The prolonged controversy over a proposal by Taiwan's biggest media group, Want Want, to expand its influence into the cable TV sector has highlighted the media regulator's poor governance.

The National Communications Commission (NCC) this week renewed a review of Want Want's proposed acquisition of China Network Systems (CNS) after a long delay of 18 months.

The NCC is apparently rushing to reach a decision before its present term ends at the end of this month.

We do not yet know what verdict the NCC will return, but the long delay tells much about the controversy surrounding the proposal.

Want Want was already a household brand of rice crackers in Taiwan before moving its business focus to China more than a decade ago.

In the mid 2000s, it returned more successful and even more ambitious. Its focus since its return has been Taiwan's not-so-profitable media business.

It first bought a newspaper group, China Times, and went on to acquire two TV networks, CTI Television and China Television Co., as well as other media outlets.

The proposed acquisition of CNS, a multisystem operator, is Want Want's latest attempt to expand its media empire to exert control on how content is to be distributed to cable TV subscribers.

The move has been worrying defenders of freedom of the press. They say it would allow Want Want to hold an unfair position against other media outlets.

Critics note that Want Want could be able to block its competitors' access to CNS subscribers.

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