The Spawning Of Newspapers In Taiwan p.15

By: MARK FITZGERALD WHEN JASON HU was Taiwan's chief government spokesman in the mid-1980s, a get-together with a reporter almost always meant bad news for the journalist.
"The reporter knew he was in trouble, because I am calling up and saying, 'I read your story. How can you say such things?' I tell him, 'stop that . . . or
else,' " Hu recalled. "But now, if you see a reporter knocking on the door of the government information officer, it is the GIO who is saying, 'I am in trouble,' " Hu said.
Because the United States and Taiwan do not have formal diplomatic relations ? a price America paid for regularizing relations with the People's Republic of China on the mainland ? Hu's position as Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (Republic of China) is as close to an ambassador to the U.S. as the island nation has.
At the National Newspaper Association convention in Nashville, Hu traced the process of how the Republic of China's newspapers have become free ? and vigorous and prosperous in the process.
Hu credited the gradual system of democratization Taiwanese call the "quiet revolution."
"We moved from a semi-soft authoritarian system to a fairly democratic system ? and yet the whole process was achieved without bloodshed. The media played a very important role ? the newspapers especially ? in that quiet revolution," Hu said.
The turning point for newspapers came in 1988 when for the first time in 35 years, Taiwan began to issue new newspaper licenses.The number of newspaper licenses soared from 31 in 1987 to 354 by last August. Not all of those licenses actually resulted in newspapers, however. Hu observed that some people, seeing how valuable licenses had become during the freeze, decided to buy a newspaper license "just in case the government changed its mind." Still, about 70 of those licenses represented new, major newspapers ? and total newspaper circulation on the 21 million-population island has jumped from 3.9 million in 1987 to 6 million currently.
Taiwanese newspapers, Hu says, contain strong coverage of international news ? especially as it relates to mainland China, where Taiwan has an investment of about $25 billion.
Newspapers also extend democracy, Hu says, by conducting polls, which were rare before 1988.
"And as newspapers have become more service-oriented, there has been an increase in consumer awareness," Hu said.


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