Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hong Kong yellow journalism under fire

On November 26th, the Taipei City government imposed a fine of US$30,000 on the Apple Daily, a local affiliate of a Hong Kong company, after news stories were presented in an obscene manner on the paper’s animated news website. Found to violate the Children and Youth Welfare Act, the Taipei government also ordered all city schools and public libraries to stop subscribing to the newspaper.

According to the Taipei-based China Post, the city government will continue monitoring the situation even though the paper has announced the establishment of a ratings system for its online animated news. The ratings system classifies news content into two categories – restricted and unrestricted – with the restricted content labeled with a warning against viewing by underage web surfers.

The online news service shows animated reports of news stories, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse and murder, often using disturbing graphics and narration. Since the service commenced on November 16th, it has sparked an outcry from parents, educators and civic groups.
More than twenty civic groups accused the paper of violating human rights while inflicting harm on the victims of the reported crimes. After the protesters gathered outside the paper’s building, the Apple Daily finally apologized for the explicit content of its animated news and issued a statement saying it would stop broadcasting the most controversial items, but will continue using the animations nevertheless.

However, the city barred the subscription since readers can easily use their cell phones to scan a 2D barcode printed on the paper to gain access to the media group’s action news website. A 2D barcode, also known as a quick response (QR) code, provides easy access to the action news videos. Anyone can use a cell phone to scan the code to watch the animated news clips on a cell phone.

Earlier the paper accused the Taipei City government of restricting press freedom and said it would take legal action against the city. The Taipei government defended its action by saying the measures to bar the paper and action news on campus are all designed to protect minors. A city government spokesperson urged the nation’s top media regulator, the National Communications Commission (NCC), Taiwan’s FCC, to draft regulations on using motion graphics in presenting news stories as soon as possible.

According to Internet rating management measures listed in the Children and Youth Welfare Act, excessive detailed criminal conduct, such as murder, or describing sexual behavior with actions, videos, words and narration should be rated as “restricted.”

The Taiwan News reported that Next Media Group, the parent company of Apple Daily, also applied to launch five television channels in Taiwan. The company is now facing a tougher review with the NCC as a consequence of the outcry against their animated news service.

NCC vice chairman Chen Cheng-tsang said the media group from Hong Kong is unlikely to obtain a TV news license if it wants to deliver news containing motion graphics unacceptable to the Taiwanese public.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.