Taipei, A group of Kuomintang (KMT) legislators visited the National Communications Commission (NCC) Friday, urging the agency to execute its responsibilities even-handedly, after it slapped heavy fines on cable news channel CTi News for what it called a lack of fact checking in its reporting.
KMT lawmakers, including Alex William Tseng Lai Shyh-bao Lin Te-fu and Huang Chao-shun discussed the issue with NCC Acting Chairman Wong Po-tsung and Chief Secretary Hsiao Chi-hong in a closed-door meeting that lasted less than 30 minutes.
Following the meeting, Wong and Hsiao promised the NCC would remain neutral and handle complaints from all parties equally.
The KMT lawmakers' visit was triggered by a NT$1 million (NT$32,467) fine imposed Wednesday by the NCC on CTi News for a report in which a farmer claimed 2 million tons of pomelos were dumped in the Tsengwen Reservoir.
Although both the CTi News reporter and the farmer being interviewed quickly corrected the amount and location during the live broadcast, NCC still deemed the report to lack verification and went ahead with the fine.
In response, CTi News issued a statement Wednesday, indicating that it will file an administrative appeal to have the NCC decision reversed.
So far, CTi News has been slapped with fines totaling NT$2.2 million by the NCC for a lack of fact checking, while EBC News has been fined NT$200,000.
Lai said he was unhappy with the NCC fine, asking why the fine was issued despite the station making a swift correction.
If this is the situation the NCC should apply the same standard to all news media, Lai said. As a purportedly independent agency, the NCC must not target specific TV new stations just because they file more reports on Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu of the KMT, he added.
Fai said they demanded the NCC treat all news media outlets equally so as to defend freedom of speech, instead of making an example of CTi News to coerce other stations.
Lin criticized Wong for not answering when he asked what the NCC would do if the source of misinformation is the government?
In response to the KMT lawmakers' visit, Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus whip Kuan Bi-ling said at a news conference that many countries, including the United States, Germany and France have amended laws to fight the spread of false news, while others such as Brazil and Singapore are currently doing so for the same purpose.
Kuan said the DPP supports the NCC's fines in line with existing laws because news media outlets are not allowed to fabricate or disseminate false misinformation in a democratic country.
Later Friday, the NCC said in a statement that it applies the same standard to all news media and does not target or seek to punish specific outlets.
The agency stressed that it does not review the content of news stations, rather it focuses on whether they fully adhere to the principle of fact checking so as not to harm the public interest.
NCC said it strictly handles complaints from any party based on the law and without political considerations.
Meanwhile, 1,500 teachers and students from 45 universities signed a petition in a show of support for the NCC decision to fine CTi News and a fair news reporting environment in Taiwan.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel