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NCC refuses to speculate on media monopoly

The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday declined to comment on speculation that a media monopoly could be created if broadcast groups took over the print establishments that Next Media might be selling.

NCC spokesman Wei Hseuh wen said the commission does not oversee print media and therefore it is not in a position comment on any deal that will never be submitted to it for approval.

The Hong Kong based Next Media disclosed Tuesday that it has received an offer for its print establishments in Taiwan, including the hugely popular Apple Daily newspaper and Next Magazine. Next TV is not included in the possible deal.

But newspaper reports claimed yesterday that members of the Tsai family that controls the Fubon financial group are eyeing a takeover of Next TV and its multimedia-on-demand network.

Responding to the report, Wei said the Dafu Media run by Daniel and Richard Tsai of the family would not be allowed to launch such a bid until 2013.

Dafu was created by the brothers to acquire cable TV operator Kbro from Carlyle Group in 2010. The NCC approved the takeover on the condition that Dafu cannot set up its own TV news, finance or shopping channels in three years.

Any Dafu application to set up such channels after the three-year period would still be subject to approval by the NCC, the spokesman said.

Although Wei declined to comment on the possibility of broadcast firms taking over Next's publications, Wei said the existing laws are insufficient to govern cross-media acquisition.

He cited the controversy over the media giant Want Want's bid to acquire cable service provider China Network Systems (CNS).

NCC could only lay down conditions for Want Want's operating of its TV stations, without mentioning anything about its China Times newspaper, because the commission has no authority over the print media, Wei said.

The deal sparked a war of words between Want Want and Next Media, which campaigned against the acquisition on the grounds that it would create a monopoly.

Want Want yesterday had its attorney file a libel lawsuit at the Taipei District Prosecutors Office against Next Media over its reports on the CNS deal.

But Next said its reports on the deal were in service of public interest.

Meanwhile, the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) said priority should be given to protecting the rights of Next employees if the media group decides to sell off some its businesses.

ATJ President Chen Hsiao-yi said Next should carefully select a buyer to avoid creating a media monster.

She also suggested that the Next management start talks with its employees immediately to protect their right to work and give them a say in decisions that affect them.

Chen Shun-hsiao, an associate professor at Fu Jen Catholic University, said the media business is generally difficult but Apple Daily and Next Magazine have been making money.

Next Media is trying to sell the two publications because they are being dragged down by Next TV, which is losing money, he added.

Next Media CEO Cassian K. S. Cheung sent out a letter to the company's employees Tuesday, saying the company will operate normally during the talks, and its employees should go about business as usual.

He said that the talks will be held over the next few weeks with an independent third party.

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