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Monday, December 18, 2006

Pirate radio station operators protest outside NCC in Taiwan

From AsiaMedia via Angelica Oung in Taipei Times:
Members of the Taiwan Defense Alliance demonstrate outside the office of the National Communications Commission yesterday, demanding that commission members resign because the group had been declared unconstitutional. Scores of pirate radio station operators protested vociferously against the National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday in a continuation of clashes that have simmered since June. Held back by rows of police in riot gear, angry protesters spat at pictures of commission members and burnt copies of the Constitution over what they said was the NCC's lack of legitimacy.

"The threshold that the NCC has set for licensed stations is NT$50 million [US$1.5 million] in assets and capital, which puts licensing totally out of reach of independent operators," said Tsai Chi-feng, a pirate radio station owner. "Local and non-mainstream Taiwanese voices are being silenced," Tsai said, adding that the crackdown was part of the NCC's "secret scheme to let the pro-China media monopolize the media market" in the country.

The commission has been cracking down hard on pirate stations, which are generally considered more sympathetic toward Taiwan independence. So far this year, the commission has shut down more than 500 such outfits, according to Hsu Ming-tse, the news liaison for the protesters. The commission itself was declared unconstitutional by the Council of Grand Justices in July because of the party-based nomination method for its members. However, the current members will serve until the end of their term in January 2008.

"They have no authority to shut us down when they have constitutional problems themselves," Hsu said. "We will be willing to work with the next group of commissioners, elected constitutionally, but not the current NCC," Hsu said.

The commission did not respond to the protest. An administrator who declined to be named told the Taipei Times that the commission did not meet with the protesters because the protesters did not submit their complaints in the proper manner. Despite the fact that stations are continually being shut down and their equipment confiscated, Tsai said station owners continue to play cat and mouse with the commission. "We will keep fighting ... we are regrouping and rebroadcasting as soon as soon as they shut us down," Tsai said. 12.15.06.

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