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KMT shuts down Central Daily News after 78 years

The Kuomintang (KMT) yesterday decided to shut down the 78-year old Central Daily News, the world’s oldest Chinese language newspaper and a symbol of the party’s former glory.

The party’s powerful Central Standing Committee passed a resolution to stop printing the paper at the end of this month and to settle accounts and deal out severance payments for its over 70 editorial staff. The party will also deal with the paper’s stockholders.

KMT leader Ma Ying-jeou was saddened at the move but was resolved to be practical.

“We can only survive if we are pragmatic,” he said.

The Central Daily News was first issued on February 1, 1928, as the KMT’s mouthpiece in mainland China. It relocated to Taiwan with KMT forces in 1949.

In 1951, it was the most widely-read newspaper in the country on national issues, according to a proposal to fold the paper put forward by the party’s management committee.

But when a ban on the free press was lifted in 1987, the paper saw fierce competition. It’s conservative image and associations with the KMT’s past authoritarianism did not help sales.

Eventually, in April 2006, according to the proposal, the paper’s accumulated debts exceeded NT$800 million. This is in excess of its overall assets of NT$470 million. The paper was sustaining losses of NT$8.44 million each month throughout this year.

The KMT proposal said the environment for the media was not good in Taiwan and it did not see the state of the Central Daily News improving. The KMT, once one of the world’s richest political parties, also lacked financial resources needed to help out the paper.

The proposal also said an anonymous buyer “friendly to the KMT” was interested in purchasing the Central Daily News shares and converting it into an online news site. The new electronic news web site would maintain the KMT’s ideals and, local media said, could become an online news source for China-based Taiwan business people.

“If we could find a suitable buyer to start up the paper again, the KMT would look optimistically on this development,” said KMT spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen.

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