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Bill to relax restrictions on TV operators

Taiwan's cabinet yesterday approved a draft bill that will lift restrictions on local cable television operators branching out to different service areas.

The draft is an amendment to the current Cable Television Act (有線廣播電視法), which limits cable operators to only operate in their franchise areas.

The lifting of the restriction allows broadcasters to decide on the scale of their operations, which was done to actively introduce a competitive mechanism for the benefit of customers, according to the National Communications Commission (NCC).

The draft that was passed during a session of the Executive Yuan yesterday morning also stipulates that cable television system subscribers must not exceed one-third of the nation's viewing households, preventing a monopoly by a single operator in a certain market.

NCC Chairwoman Su Herng said after the cabinet session that the nation currently has a total of 51 cable television service areas, but 35 of them are monopolized by a single operator.

Without competition, the service quality of cable TV may never improve, she noted.

The amendment is designed to end the monopoly by allowing operators to offer services outside their original service areas, she noted.

When asked if the latest amendment would cause merging of cable broadcasters, Su said that operators are free to choose to merge with others or not, but the merge must first be approved by the NCC, she added.

The NCC head also noted that local authorities are currently responsible for screening the monthly fees of cable operators in each area.

However, Su said that in the future subscription fees will be decided by the central government, as more and more cable television operators are expected to reach out to offer service in different areas.

Meanwhile, Su noted that the approved draft bill will also help to better protect the rights of television viewers.

According to the bill, cable operators are prohibited from broadcasting government-funded marketing programs.

TV news channels and shows for children are both prohibited from broadcasting marketing programs as well.

Programs that showcase marketing programming should also inform their viewers of the sponsor of the program in question, according to the draft bill.

The bill still needs to be approved by the Legislative Yuan.

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