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Taiwan 5 August 2005

Authorities abruptly close down cable TV news station

Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay today at the abrupt closure of TV news station ETTV-S and six others, mainly entertainment, commercial cable TV stations as a result of a 31 July decision by the government’s Satellite Broadcasting Business Review Committee not to renew their licences and to give them just two days to stop broadcasting.

The organisation called on Prime Minister Frank Hsieh Chang-ting to rescind the decision and ensure that the licences, especially that of ETTV-S, are renewed.

"This decision clearly constitutes a serious press freedom violation and a disturbing signal to cable TV operators and TV executives, who will now have to work with a threat hanging over them," Reporters Without Borders said. "It is unacceptable that the broadcast licence system should be subordinated to political interests."

The Taiwanese government should put and end to such an arbitrary system create a fully independent entity to issue licences, the organisation added.

The day after the announcement of the closures, the prime minister tried to assuage the ensuing outcry by insisting that "everything was done according to the rules." The refusal to renew the licences was justified by "financial problems" and by programming that was influenced by "journalistic irresponsibility and the presence of pornographic content," he said. The authorities also referred to laws on the protection of minors and food hygiene to justify the closures.

As regards violating press freedom, the prime minister claimed this was a necessary evil in order to clean up Taiwanese TV, which has about 100 cable channels.

Cable stations, which receive a licence for six years, are subject to regular monitoring. Owned by the Eastern Multimedia Group, ETTV-S had always been able to hold on to its licences after reviews in the past. The station’s executives intend to appeal. Its closure has put more than 300 employees out of work.

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