Star Maps of Chinese Media
The following is the translation of an essay from the collection "What Does A Woman Want? (女人究竟要什麼?)" written by Chang Shi-kuo (張系國). The essay began with the description of a talk given by the renowned mainland media verteran Qian Gang (錢剛).
The Skies of Taiwan Media Are Very Greek
... Compared to before, the main difference for mainland scholars nowadays is that they don't have to be the unwilling bringers of good tidings but never any bad tidings. They now dare to speak critically about current affairs, including both the bad and the good. Of course, they will still have to run the 60%/40% thing, with more good than bad. Everybody can understand that. This generation of mainland scholars generally knows how to speak out. But Qian Gang is not only a good speaker, he is actually knowledgeable. So this audience learned a lot from him. When he finished his speech, the students at Tsing Hua University (Taiwan) had lots of questions for him.
Qian Gang spoke about the situation of mainland Chinese media. He used a two-dimensional star map with a horizontal axis and a vertical axis to explain the development of mainland media. The horizontal axis represents the degree of freedom. The left-hand side of the horizontal axis represents lack of freedom while the right-hand side of the horizontal axis represents plenty of freedom. The vertical axis represents the degree of market openness. The top half of the vertical axis is where a planned economy is working (note: for example, a newspaper is financially supported by government subsidies and takes orders from government officials) while the bottom half of the vertical axis is where a market economy is working (note: for example, a newspaper relies on copy news and advertisements for financing).
Here is how Qian Gang descibed the mainland media through this star map. He believes in the past, the stars that represent the mainland meda were in the top left corner. They were neither open nor under the influence of market forces. But now they are all moving towards the bottom right corner. Qian Gang divided the changing mainland media into three sub-types. The first type is the free press which do not totally bow to the dictates of the market forces. This is the most ideal kind. The second type is the free press which are leaning towards a market economy. This is like the western media. The third type is not very free but follow the market model. This is the worst possible kind, and they are the targets of criticism by Qian Gang and other mainland media people with conscience. Qian Gang gave many examples to show how the mainland media forget about "justice" when they saw the money. But this audience was not surprised, because this is common knowledge on both sides of the Taiwan strait.
During the Q&A period, a smart student asked Qian Gang, "Can you draw a star map for Taiwan media?" Qian Gang said that he cannot but he had two perceptive observations. First, the media in Taiwan appear to be very free, but each of them has certain "concepts." Certain reports based upon certain concepts will not be reported by certain media. Secondly, the media in Taiwan appears to follow market forces, but this is not totally true because there ample examples of marketing communications inserted in them. Without these marketing communications, some media basically cannot survive financially.
Due to these abnormal conditions, Qian Gang admitted frankly that he did not know how to draw a star map. I admire Qian Gang for his perceptive observations on Taiwan media for he is a veteran media worker. But after listening to Qian Gang's speech, I was able to construct a star map of Taiwan media. The key is that you have to make a distinction between the "Virtual Star (太虛星)" and the "True Star (本命星)." Each Taiwan media outlet is represented by two stars: the "Virtual Star" is in the southeastern corner while the "True Star" is in the northwestern corner, just as in the legend about "the skies fall down in the northwest and the earth crumbled in the southeast." Thus, the Taiwan media appeared to show up in the bottom-right corner, but that only refers to their "Virtual Stars." Their "True Stars" are located in the top-left corner!
This true/virtual phenomenon can be described by the line from poet Yu Kwang-chung: "The skies of the Taiwan media are very Greek" and this is hard for outsiders to understand. At this time, the Government Information Office seemed to be ready to go after TVBS; the Kuomintang are selling off the television, radio and movie companies cheaply; the Government Information Office director is not interested in releasing news government but prefers to generation more news about the government suppressing the media. These strange phenomena may be hard for outsiders to understand.
Actually, the two-dimensional star map for Taiwan media needs to be augmented by a third axis. This third axis refers to the accuracy of the contents of the media reports. The top of the axis represents high accuracy, and the bottom of the axis is the opposite. With this third axis, the three-dimensional star map becomes more exciting. Greater freedom of press does not mean that the accuracy of the news contents will be higher. When the market tendency of the media outlet is low, it does not mean that it is less accurate. We have seen many counter-examples. Media in the lower-right corner (free press and market model) do not have to be high in accuracy, as some are like very low-flying warplanes. ...