TAIWAN: Adult TV channel sparks controversy in legislature

Although subscription is free, new cable channel still requires purchase of a decoder box, clarified National Communication Commission spokeperson

Taipei Times
Friday, October 26, 2007

By Angelica Oung and Flora Wang

The National Communications Commission's decision to issue a license to a new free cable adult TV channel received mixed reviews in the legislature yesterday, with several female legislators frowning on the decision while their male counterparts said the move would contribute to a higher birth rate.

The company behind the controversy is Star-Winged Corp, which received an operating license for the new channel on Wednesday.

Approached for comment, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Diane Lee said the commission's decision could contribute to social problems and have a negative physical and psychological impact on children and teenagers.

"Many of our social [scandals] occur because our children and teenagers have misconceptions about sex. If we relax restrictions on adult [programming] like this, it is surely a cause for concern," Lee said.

She added that the commission should take its role more seriously.

Commission spokesperson Howard Shyr said on Wednesday that Star-Winged would not be required to charge a subscription fee for the channel. However, he said the channel would be encoded and that people would have to buy set-top decoder boxes to view it.

The company's proposal said the channel would provide adult movies from Japan and the US as well as "erotic visuals," Shyr said.

Shyr said the approval process was "routine" and had not deviated significantly from the commission's policy on adult programming.

He disagreed with media reports that described the new channel as "free" or "a first" for the commission.

"Other companies have applied for the same license," Shyr said. "It is not a premium channel or a pay-per-view channel. It is a basic cable channel -- but that is not quite the same thing as 'free', since consumers will still have to pay for set-top [decoder] boxes."

Packages offered by cable companies for set-top boxes vary in cost, but none of them are free, Shyr said.

KMT legislative whip Kuo Su-chun said the channel was a "time bomb."

"TV channels are supposed to be suitable for all families to watch together," Kuo said.

Meanwhile, Lin Chih-yang, CEO of Star-Winged, said the issue had been blown out of proportion.

"This is the same kind of programming that we already have on our pay channels," Lin said.

In order to stay within the bounds of the law, genitals will be electronically blurred in the video broadcast by Lin's networks.

"Any reports that we are actually going to show hardcore porn are completely inaccurate," he said.

Despite the controversy sparked by the commission's decision, wider availability of adult programming would be beneficial on a number of levels, gynecologist and honorary president of the Taiwan Association for Sexuality Education Jeng Cherng-jye said.

"Even the new adult channel will end up broadcasting the same mediocre pornography we already get on the paid adult channels. The public will come out on top because they can now save on their cable bill," Jeng said.

Jeng estimated that of the approximately 5 million cable subscribers in the country, less than 10 percent possess set-top cable boxes.

However, Jeng said he hoped the new channel would import better quality adult programming from Europe and the US with higher production values and "more interesting narratives."

"There is a lot that couples can learn from such programs that might improve their sex lives," Jeng said. "I suppose it is possible that it might translate into a higher birth rate."

Jeng dismissed the view that making adult programming widely available would raise the level of sex crimes or taint young peoples' view of sexuality.

"Watching porn does not turn people into sex criminals. It is the parents' responsibility to make sure their children do not have access to the code that de-scrambles the channel," Jeng said.

"Besides, this stuff is already on the Internet," he added.