In 2009, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched its “Grand Foreign Publicity” campaign, spending 45 billion yuan ($6 billion) in an attempt to “regain the right to speak” internationally.
Over the past decade, the direction of global media coverage has become increasingly communist-aligned, which has caused serious concern among governments around the world.
At the beginning of 2018, the U.S. government strengthened the “Foreign Agents Registration Act” (FARA), excluding communist media from the news industry, effectively labeling such “journalists” as “foreign agents.” Taiwan is the epicenter of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s “Grand Foreign Publicity” activities. The gradual leftist shift among Taiwanese media has become an issue that cannot be ignored by the Taiwanese people.
Huang Guochang, a Taiwan legislator and Holger Chen, an online celebrity also known as “Kuan Chang” together launched a “reject the communist media, protect Taiwan’s democracy” rally on June 23, calling on the Taiwan government to strengthen scrutiny on communist-aligned media. According to an estimate of the event organizer New Power Party, more than 100,000 people attended the event, showing that the communist shift of Taiwanese media has garnered people’s attention.
Mr. Lin, one of the participants in the event, told The Epoch Times that his father had been watching communist-aligned TV for a long time. When he talked to his father, he found his ideas and values had changed. His father became pro-communist when facing the anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong or the Taiwan Strait issue, and forgot about the universal values of democracy and freedom. Among the Taiwanese people who participated in the rally, Lin’s case was common.
The communist opinion is gradually changing Taiwanese society, transforming its ideology and news operation. Hu Yuanhui, associate professor of National Chung Cheng University Communications Department and the founder of Taiwan FactCheck Center, said that if communist media continues to develop, it will have four negative impacts on Taiwan: threats to national security, increased social confrontation, damage to the media ecology, and damage to the professional journalism industry.
Threat to National Security
According to The Financial Times, journalists of China Times disclosed that the CCP’s Taiwan Affairs Office calls their office every day to get involved in the coverage of cross-strait issues. It also has interfered with the layout of front pages. A journalist of CTI Television also expressed that CCP officials influence its coverage of China by assigning content and editorial positions to Taiwan correspondents in China.
The National Communications Commission (NCC), a Taiwanese government body that regulates the media, said it had launched an investigation into the case and would resolve it in accordance with three broadcasting regulations.
Hu Yuanhui said that the stance and ideology of communist-aligned “red” media represent a threat to Taiwan’s national security. Although there are differences in reporting between the KMT/New Party “blue” media and DDP “green” media, such differences are political and not an issue of national security. The red media, however, follows the CCP, which seeks to alter Taiwan’s national identity and is a greater threat to national security.
“The biggest impact of conveying false facts is to create confrontation and contradiction,” Hu said.
“In the functioning mechanism of a democracy nation, people can compete with each other, and there are still rules to balance them. However, such media deliberately increases polarization between people, deepening the confrontation and rifts between ethnic groups, and propel such conflicts to an uncontrollable level.”
“It’s a serious problem that red media conveys the ideology of the CCP, but what’s more serious is that the red media makes it impossible for the society to reach a basic consensus on how to operate, which will destroy the model of social operation,” said Hu.
Damage to the Media Ecology
According to Hu, those referred to as “communist media” often confuse fact with fiction. Such media have abandoned the basic responsibility of delivering facts and revealing the truth. Communist-aligned media can ignore the real situation due to the influence of ideology and a pro-China stance.
This will make the operation of the media chaotic. If communist media gradually loses the responsibility of adhering to the fourth estate, they will also affect other media and cause considerable damage to the news ecology.
Damage to Journalistic Professionalism
Hu Yuanhui said that communist media not only confuse outside readers, but also caused a considerable impact inside the press industry. Journalists should have a certain degree of autonomy.
However, operations of communist media are under the command of the CCP and CCP-aligned interest groups, and all journalists have to carry out their instructions in their editorial stance. Especially when media bosses use the media as propaganda tools of the CCP, they force journalists to write reports that are inconsistent with facts, which will damage the industry overall.
Zhang Jinhua, a professor at The Graduate Institute of Journalism at National Taiwan University, said Taiwan needs more people to understand the damage the CCP’s sharp power does to global values. The CCP continues to destroy the good side of human nature as well as traditional culture and values. The society will face a terrible state if the CCP-controlled media distort or do not report the truth. “The greatest harm to freedom is the silence of good people.”
At present, there is still no clear regulatory standard and definition of communist media in Taiwan’s legal system. Then what criteria should be used to determine whether the media is communist-aligned or not?
3 Ways to Distinguish Communist-Aligned Media
It can be observed from three aspects, including self-censorship of reporting; not reporting negative news about the CCP; suppressing reports and negative interpretations of people and matters that are at odds with the CCP’s position.
“The reason why Taiwanese media are labeled by color is because they already represent strong positions and have clear ideologies,” said Hu Yuanhui, the associate professor of National Chung Cheng University and the founder of Taiwan FactCheck Center.
In Taiwanese society, media that report on the pro-Democratic Progressive Party side are called green media, and those that report on the pro-Kuomintang side are called blue media. The red media generally refers to pro-communist media.
Red media is not clearly defined in Taiwan’s relevant regulations. But in reality, red media is not difficult to distinguish. Through a media’s objectivity, and its reporting angle when discussing sensitive issues such as Falun Gong, Tiananmen Square Massacre, and anti-extradition bill protest in Hong Kong just to name a few examples, one can distinguish whether the media’s position is aligned to the CCP.
One of the most well-known phenomenon of supposedly communist-aligned media is “self-censorship,” which often avoids certain sensitive words or deliberately replace them in order to shift the ideology of the audience.
Xu Qinhuang, a senior media professional who’s long appeared as a commentator on financial and economic programs, told The Epoch Times that some Taiwanese TV stations indeed self-censor. For instance, on cross-strait news, there are stations which automatically convert the word “China” into “the mainland.” This has conveyed a position on cross-strait issues that there is no difference between China and Taiwan.
“Most Taiwanese believe that Taiwan should be an independent regime, and don’t want to be unified by the CCP. Yet in the present media environment of Taiwan, many media professionals feel quite helpless that their news must comply with the direction of the company, so they have to self-censor news topics. This phenomenon is particularly evident when dealing with the Taiwan Strait issue,” said Xu.
Professor Zhang Jinhua said the CCP has never thought of balancing its coverage, and the media it infiltrates are the same.
The red media will hardly ever report negative news on the CCP, and in some instances even twist the facts to report such matters positively. For example, in June two million Hong Kong residents took to the streets to protest against the Hong Kong government’s amendment of the Extradition Bill. The incident has been highlighted by mainstream media around the world, but in Taiwan, some media outlets with close ties to the CCP haven’t mentioned it at all.
Pro-communist media have also steered clear of specific issues in programming. In 2015, Tsinghua Unigroup, a Chinese semiconductor company, attempted to acquire Taiwanese technology company MediaTek. This merger was seen as having concerns of national security for Taiwan, so many Taiwanese opposed the proposal. But some Taiwanese TV stations asked commentators not to discuss this key issue affecting Taiwan’s economy.
“Some talk shows in Taiwan even asked the media to talk positively about China’s high-speed railway, inventions and other issues, and try to sell China,” Xu said.
Xu Qinhuang said, “when the media do talk shows, the other side (CCP) can already get involved in the subject of concerned topics, can seriously intervene in program orientations. Such phenomenon is happening in Taiwan, day after day. Taiwan is an independent sovereign state. It’s inconceivable to see such phenomenon happening.”
Some red media with clear-cut stand will negatively interpret news that are not conducive to the CCP in their reports. Take Hong Kong’s protest against the Extradition Bill as an example. Some red media described protesters as thugs who undermine social order. In serious cases, red media even slandered or framed unfavorable news about the CCP. This phenomenon also occurs when they report on Falun Gong issues. Red media usually do not report on Falun Gong related news, but if they do, they will interpret it negatively.