On October 29 Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Pasuya Yao said the GIO had sufficient evidence to prove that cable TV station TVBS was a foreign-owned company and therefore breaking the law. On November 8, TVBS was issued a fine of NT$1 million (US$28,700) under the principle of proportionality and was required to rectify the situation before December 20, 2005. On November 15, 2005, the GIO published a position paper regarding the handling of the TVBS ownership structure issue. The issue has involved many Taiwanese, legislators, officials in the executive branch, and even the President of Taiwan.
In the position paper, the Taiwan government concluded that TVBS, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong Television Broadcasts Ltd. (commonly known as TVB) was 100 percent owned by foreign shareholders, and therefore violated Article 10 of the Satellite Broadcasting Act, which stipulates that, "the total shares of a satellite broadcasting business directly held by foreign shareholders shall be less than 50 percent of the total shares issued by the said business."
When TVBS applied for license renewal six months ago, it claimed that 47 percent of its shares were held by the Hong Kong-based TVB Investment Ltd. and the remaining 53 percent by the Taiwan-based Countless Entertainment (Taiwan) Company Ltd. However, TVB Investment Ltd owns 100 percent of Countless Entertainment (Taiwan) Company Ltd., making TVBS a completely foreign-owned company.
A goal of further investigation is to find out if there are any investment holdings by the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.) in TVBS. The Chairman of TVBS, Norman Leung, was the Chairman of the Hong Kong Broadcasting Authority from 1997 to 2002. Some legislators from the Democratic Progressive Party stated that a 100 percent Hong Kong ownership of Taiwan media’s TVBS was the equivalent to a 100 percent P.R.C. ownership, especially considering Norman Leung’s background. Wen-chih Yao, Minister of the Government Information Office (GIO), stated, "Given the TVBS Chairman’s background as a Hong Kong official, legislators are questioning the station’s political stance, and the GIO has required that TVBS clarify this too."
Starting on November 5, Taiwan Southern Society launched a campaign to boycot TVBS. According to the President of the Society, Cheng Chengyu, TVBS and United Daily News are the base for P.R.C. forces in Taiwan television and newspapers. On the surface, they embrace the sovereignty of Taiwan. However, their programs and reports don’t live up to the level of support that they have stated. Cheng thought TVBS had abused freedom of the press in Taiwan and had issued malicious reports that harmed Taiwan.
P.R.C. infiltration of Taiwan media was already been brought into question when Phoenix TV, a Hong Kong-based TV station, tried to expand its presence in Taiwan. According to a November 5 report by Liberty Times, three or four years ago, Phoenix TV applied to the GIO for a permit to broadcast its programs in Taiwan. The GIO turned down the application because Pheonix TV’s programs were considered prejudiced in their reports on cross-strait relations. About two months ago, the President of Phoenix TV, Liu Changle, made a secret trip to Taiwan and visited GIO Minister Yao, hoping to apply for the permit again.
Phoenix TV is regarded by many as Beijing’s overseas mouthpiece and even bears the nickname, "overseas CCTV (China Central TV)." Speaking of Phoenix TV, Wu Guoguang, who was once part of the think tank advising former Secretary General of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Zhao Ziyang and is currently the China Program Chair at the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives of University of Victoria, Hong Kong, stated in the Chinese article, "The Sophistication of China’s Political Propaganda" that it was part of Communist China’s strategy to "export in order to import." He explained this by telling about a personal experience he had. The night before Iraqi soldiers surrendered en masse in March 2003, Wu was in Hong Kong, closely following the news. He watched the Phoenix TV station, because it broadcast in Mandarin, while all the other local TV stations broadcast in Cantonese, a dialect that he did not understand. He learned from the news that the U.S. troops met fierce resistance in Iraq.
To his surprise, the following day, all the newspapers reported on the front page that Iraqi soldiers surrendered en masse. He was both shocked and upset. Phoenix TV followed the propaganda of the Chinese government media so closely that it misrepresented the fighting and simply did not report the surrender of the Iraqi soldiers.
Wu then called his friends in mainland China and discovered that none of them heard the news from Iraq. His friends told him that they did not watch CCTV, China’s state-run TV station, but instead watched the "overseas" Phoenix TV.
"Why doesn’t it [Phoenix TV] have a Cantonese channel or Cantonese programs, given that it is stationed in [Cantonese-speaking] Hong Kong?" questioned Wu in the article. Wu’s answer was that the majority of the people in China have lost both their confidence and interest in China’s state media. "Overseas" media — media from outside China—are believed to be credible. Therefore, the Chinese regime created its own "overseas media" to spread its political propaganda. Many Chinese consider Phoenix TV to be an overseas media.
A top staff member of the Phoenix North American Chinese Channel (PNACC) was recently arrested for stealing U.S. military secrets. The history of the PNACC, including the personal background of its founding CEO and the station’s role as a propaganda arm of the Chinese regime, raise serious questions regarding the role of PNACC itself in China’s espionage efforts in the United States.
On October 28, U.S. intelligence officials arrested two Chinese couples in the Los Angeles area and charged them with stealing U.S. military secrets. One couple was arrested at the Los Angeles airport, the other at their home in Downey. The man arrested at the airport, Tai Wang Mak, is said to be "a broadcast and engineering director for the Phoenix North American Chinese Channel." The man arrested in Downey, Chi Mak (also known as Jack Mak), was the Lead Project Engineer for the defense contractor Power Paragon (a subsidiary of L3/SPD Technologies/Power Systems Group in Anaheim, California), and is his elder brother.
According to an FBI affidavit, Chi Mak allegedly took computer disks from Power Paragon with sensitive information about a Navy project. Allegedly he also e-mailed photos and reports about the project to his home computer. He and his wife then copied the information onto CDs and delivered them to his brother Tai Wang Mak. He and his wife were scheduled to fly to Hong Kong on October 28 in order to meet later with a contact in Guangzhou, China, the affidavit says.
TVBS in the meantime is invoking freedom of the press to protect its position and fend off the legal attack and is attacking the GIO. The extent and success of P.R.C. infiltration of Taiwanese television remains to be seen.