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NCC to consider holding hearing for Want Want purchase

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Media reform groups yesterday demanded that the National Communications Commission (NCC) hold a hearing regarding Want Want's approved acquisition of China Network Systems Co. (CNS).

NCC spokesperson Yu Hsaio-cheng (虞孝成) said the commission will decide whether it is necessary to hold a hearing after processing all related information on the acquisition.

Last July, the NCC approved Want Want China Times' (旺中) acquisition of CNS on the proviso that three conditions are met. The conditions stipulate that Want Want must separate itself from CTI Television Inc. (CTI, 中天); China Television Co. (CTV, 中視) should set up reviewing and editing systems for its televised content that are independent of Want Want; and CTV should also come up with a proposal to alter its status as a news channel.

Media reform groups said that according to the Administrative Procedure Act, the NCC should hold a hearing on the three conditions.

Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) President Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) said that Want Want President Tsai Eng-ming (蔡衍明) did not separate himself from CTI even though his son Tsai Shao-chung (蔡紹中) resigned as its president earlier this month.

“Tsai (Eng-ming) entrusted (Wang Wang's) shares of CTI to the Industrial Bank of Taiwan (IBT, 台灣工業銀行) last December,” Chen said, “but the CEO of the IBT has been a longtime business partner with Chinatrust Charity Foundation Chairman Jeffrey Koo Jr. (辜仲諒), who is one of the buyers involved in the Next Media deal along with Tsai.”

Chang Chin-hwa (張錦華), a professor at National Taiwan University's Graduate Institute of Journalism, said that according to Article 63 of Trust Law, a settlor or his inheritor shall have the right to terminate the trust at any time.

“It is not a clear separation for Tsai to entrust Want Want's CTI share to the IBT,” said Chang.

Media reform groups said given Want Want's acquisition of CNS was the biggest media merger in Asia in the past five years, it would affect consumers' rights. The NCC should hold a hearing and invite Tsai Eng-ming to clarify details concerning entrusted CTI shares.

Want Want currently owns China Times (中國時報), China Television Co. and other media outlets. Many members of the academic and political fields have voiced concern over Want Want's acquisitions of CNS and Next Media, citing the possibility of an emerging media monopolization which may jeopardize freedom of the press.

Conclusion of Three Conditions to Be Made in April

The NCC will provide its final conclusion on the acquisition by April 16 in which it will ascertain whether the three conditions have been met, according to NCC Communication Management Department Director Huang Chin-yi.

According to the NCC, if Want Want does not satisfy the three conditions, its acquisition of CNS will not be concluded.

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