Taipei – Taiwan recently launched its first government-funded English news and media streaming platform, intended to broaden the self-ruled island’s international voice.
At the launch ceremony, President Tsai Ing-wen said the purpose of Taiwan+ was to display the island’s democracy and “show the world our diversity, our achievements and our aspiration to contribute to the international community.”
Vice President William Lai added to Tsai’s remarks by saying that the platform would help advance a major government effort to improve English proficiency among the Taiwanese people.
As accurate as those descriptions are, Legislative Speaker You Si-kun was more blunt about the purpose of the new platform, who said it will oppose Beijing’s long-standing campaign to advance a pro-China world view through English-language media — often to Taiwan’s disadvantage.
“For a long time, the Chinese Communist Party has been squeezing Taiwan’s international space and creating a false image of Taiwan, leading to the diplomatic challenges Taiwan now faces,” You said.
It is time the world begins to change its views about China and raise the alarm over its rise, he said at the ceremony.
“With China’s intimidation and political oppression against Taiwan, the establishment of Taiwan+ allows Taiwan to tell its own stories to the world through its own voices, just like other international media platforms,” he added.
China has a number of English-language online media outlets, from daily newspapers and monthly magazines to wire agencies, radio and television.
The China Global Television Network, for example, also delivers digital content and boasts of having 150 million followers across the globe.
Like CGTN, the content of Taiwan+ is accessible via its official website and mobile application, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
According to platform’s Chief Executive Officer Joanne Tsai, the reason for choosing streaming was simple: It has become the go-to media format and a pillar of the global digital economy.
“Taiwan must be on par with international standards concerning telling its story directly to the international community,” she said.
Chinese media outlets have long been criticized for acting as a Communist Party mouthpiece. Indeed, according to China expert Christopher Ford, the party uses its authority in an attempt “to control the world’s discourse about China.”
While Taiwan+ will also seek to influence world opinion, officials contend that it will do so on very different terms.
The best way to promote Taiwan is to tell its story “based on truth,” said CEO Tsai.
“Taiwan is not perfect,” she said. “We will not attempt to beautify its flaws or cover them up.”
The platform is neither a political entity nor a party apparatus, she declared, adding that the Taiwanese public would find offensive any such use of tax dollars.
Commissioned by the Culture Ministry, Taiwan’s semi-official Central News Agency launched Taiwan+ on Aug. 30 to deliver news and special reports on topics from food and culture to technology, nature and lifestyle.
In addition to producing original multimedia content, the platform also sources stories from Taiwan’s public and private media organizations.
Divya Gopalan, director of the Taiwan+ News Center, leads a team of 60 journalists and editorial staff, with a plan to expand that number to 150.
Their mission, she said, “is not only to cover stories that resonate with Taiwan but also give Taiwan a voice and place in the international news scene.”
While the Culture Ministry funds Taiwan+, Minister Lee Yung-te said it will leave day-to-day operations to the platform’s professional staff. Lee also said his ministry would encourage the platform to one day become a corporate entity not reliant on government funding.
While the platform is using English in its initial stage, CEO Tsai said she foresees it expanding to other languages such as Spanish or Japanese in the future.
Likening the establishment of Taiwan+ to that of carving a baseball diamond from a cornfield in the classic 1989 film “Field of Dreams,” she said the platform is “only the very beginning,” and that she believes that once it is built, the viewers will come.
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