TAIWAN: NCC investigates handling of victim requests at ERA

Anonymous employee alleges ERA news solicited phone calls from victims of Typhoon Morakot with assurances that their requests would be forwarded on to rescuers but never did anything

Taipei Times
Friday, August 14, 2009

By Shelley Shan

The National Communications Commission (NCC) is investigating allegations that ERA News took calls from victims of Typhoon Morakot and did not relay their requests for help to the authorities after broadcasting them.

Jason Ho, director of the NCC's communication content department, said the commission had received three separate messages through its online system about an article allegedly written by an anonymous ERA News employee.

"We have sent an official notice to ERA News and asked them to explain to us how they handled the information gathered from those calls," Ho said. "To be on the safe side, we will verify the details ourselves via other sources."

The anonymous ERA news employee published an article saying the television station had allegedly mishandled the victims' requests.

"I received a call from Mr Tsou in Jiaxian Township, and he gave me a list of addresses of missing persons that need to be rescued. I asked around, and the reply I got was: 'Why do you have to type out the addresses? Why do we have to handle requests? The people only called and told the anchors. That's it!'"

"People kept calling in, and we urged them to call us and assured them that their requests would be handed on to the rescuers," the employee said. "The truth was that the requests were written on pieces of paper that just piled up on the desk. I was trying to find out the answers to my questions, and all I got was a weird smile and a gesture that meant to shush me up. From 8am to 3am, nobody bothered to do anything with the requests."

"We took advantage of vulnerable and anxious people as news sources, so that these beautifully dressed reporters could make live broadcasts and pretend that they cared about the callers," the employee said.

ERA News issued a statement on its Web site denying the allegation.

"Our news team crossed many collapsed roads and rapid torrents to reach victims," the station said. "We also made lists of callers' requests and sent them to the Central Emergency Operation Center and our offices in central and southern Taiwan. We cannot say that we did everything perfectly, but we are sincere and determined."

ERA added it would file a lawsuit against any person producing or spreading untruthful statements.