Since the lifting of ban on press in Taiwan in 1988, followed by the opening of radio broadcasting and cable TV in 1993, the number of Taiwan's print and electronic media has increased rapidly. This large number of media companies not only has led to fierce market competition but has brought about deteriorating news quality, vicious competition among these companies, and finally chaos in Taiwan's media industry.
Despite the flourishing of media since 1988, there had been no media watch until the late 1990s. In June of 1999, Prof. De-feng He from the Department of Law at National Taiwan University worked with more than 10 leading figures from academia and from the media industry, preparing to establish such a media watch. This media watch, named Taiwan Media Watch (hereinafter referred to as Media Watch), was officially established on September 21st of the same year. It was the first non-profit media watch in Taiwan, and Prof. He served as the first President of the Board. Bearing the responsibilities of maintaining press freedom, carrying out media justice, promoting media self-regulation, and protecting the public's right to know, we watch/monitor messaging in various forms of media and evaluate TV programs.
In the 21st century, Taiwan's media environment changes rapidly. At the same time, internet media rise, and Hong Kong tabloid Next Media enters Taiwan. Media's competitive and profit-driven behaviors have become manifested by placement marketing, manipulation of political ideologies, sensationalized reporting, etc. In order to tackle these issues, Media Watch started to work with other civic groups by holding forums and seminars since 2002 when Dr. Jiang-San Feng, Professor of journalism from National Chengchi University, became the second President of the Board. Topics for discussion have included the monitoring of media information, journalists' labor rights, personal agreement to participate in interview, etc. In particular, media ownership issues have become increasingly complex especially when foreign businesses started to invest in Taiwan's media industries. Media Watch also started to commit itself to media policy reform. The key work in this period was to improve the public television service. Moreover, by collaborating with Miaoli Community College, Media Watch launched the "Turn Off the TV Campaign" as well as a course of lectures to prevent negative media impact on society.
Later Dr. Zhong-xiang Kuang, Assistant Professor from the Department of Radio, Television & Film at Shih Hsin University, served as the 3rd and 4th President. In line with the previous efforts, he tried to increase the civic media awareness in society. By working closely with people from all fields, Media Watch aims at enhancing media literacy through community college education, cultivating civic journalists, and further encouraging those journalists to bring their influence in social reform. During Dr. Kuang's term, Media Watch continued to evaluate and recommend children's and teenagers' TV programs, and started to plant seeds of media literacy by educating elementary and high school teachers.
To urge mainstream media to introduce self-regulation, Media Watch actively worked with some civic groups to protect the human rights of the socially disadvantaged. In 2005, for instance, the Citizen-Participated Media Reform Alliance advocated self-regulatory guidelines for electronic media; in 2009, Media Watch assisted Apple Daily in establishing the self-regulation committee, due to the discontent of citizen groups over Next Media Animation's News. We also care about social issues and how these issues relate to the media. We care about issues on environmental protection, human rights, socially disadvantaged groups, migrant labor as well as agriculture.
3. Prospect - Deepening Media Reform
The Board of Directors re-organized on December 1st, 2011, and Dr. Jei-Cheng Cheng, Professor of journalism, former President of National Chengchi University, and the former Minister of Education, became the 5th President. In view of the proliferation in the mainstream media of placement marketing, political ideologies, consumer entertainment, pornography, violence, etc., which are all harmful to the public, the new Board continues to work on media reform, emphasizing media watch and monitoring. To build a better and healthier media environment, Media Watch would target on specific media groups or media reform issues for analysis, discussion, and review, and would also coordinate with media companies to work out fair and reasonable rules.
Nonetheless, a better and healthier media environment requires both media employers' and employees' strict compliance with professional, journalistic ethics and self-regulation. It also requires the establishment of a public, diverse media system. Media Watch has been committed to media reform in the past ten years; it will continue to enhance the competence of media workers and the quality of their work environment, protect citizens' media access rights, promote media literacy education, and integrate civil forces to reinvent the media. All these endeavors are for the greater good of our society.