Two announcements over the past few weeks have given me a tremendous boost of confidence: they affirmed in small part what it is that I have been doing in Taiwan for the past 6-odd years.
These two announcements are 1) the much anticipated signing of ECFA between Taiwan and China, and 2) the proclamation of Taiwan’s Digital Convergence Development Initiative.
The signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between China and Taiwan solidifies the continuous thawing of political-economic relations between the two sides over the past few decades or so. The Agreement lifts customs tax for over 500 products: plastic materials, cotton towels, etc, etc. This seemingly yawn-inducing body of tax agreements actually contains one element that is getting the film community here giggling with glee.
One of 500-some odd products slated for custom tax-free status is film. China has a quota of 20 foreign films allowed for distribution annually; this quota has previously included Taiwanese films. With ECFA, the quota for Taiwanese films has been removed, poof, and Taiwanese films can be distributed in China freely provided the scripts are pre-approved by SARFT, China’s media regulatory body (more on this later).
(ECFA: Is THIS what's going on?!?)
I am not naïve. There are still many issues that need to be resolved, but the possibility that a Taiwan film can have a great competitive advantage in gaining access to the China market is so exhilarating. It now finally makes more sense for Taiwanese producers and directors to make films because the market base has been magnificently magnified. It makes sense for investors to come in because they can foresee not only recoupment but even solid and consistent returns. It makes sense for foreign co-producers to join forces with the professional film industry in Taiwan because the Taiwan films are exempt from the quota restrictions.
And then came the second announcement: Taiwan’s Digital Convergence Development Initiative.
The six principal goals of the Digital Convergence Development Initiative are:
- The integration of the Broadcast and Telecom Acts by 2014
- By 2015, 80% of Taiwan households will have 100 Mbps cable broadband Internet
- By 2015, the number of households using fiber optic Internet connections will reach 6 million, a penetration rate of 76%
- By 2015, the number of wireless broadband users will reach 2 million
- By 2015, the penetration rate of digital cable TV will rise to 50% of Taiwan households
- By 2015, the use of next generation video services should reach 50% of the population
The one that got my interest the most was #5. Although Taiwan is a “silicon island” producing semiconductors, IC circuits, LCD panels, laptops for the world, we are lagging behind in TV going digital. Thus far, only about 10-15% of the households in Taiwan subscribe to digital TV, even though the statistics claim that about 40-50% of the household already has LCD TV sets at home. The US has already turned off its analog signal and only broadcasts digitally. Japan is doing so by July 2011. Even China is converting into digital faster than Taiwan. I am in the business of providing content to the digital platforms in Taiwan, and so of course I would like to see expedited conversion to digital.
I am pleased to know that the government has promulgated this new Initiative, but there have been numerous proclamations before. Some of them have not materialized and are drowned out and replaced by the new cacophony of election campaign promises, etc. So what is different now? I am different now from the way I was when I first came back to Taiwan 6 years ago, changing industry, changing domicile, changing of environment altogether. What is different now is that I feel, at least, I am better equipped to play the role of ADVOCATE for the interests I want to further. These interests are: Taiwan’s digitalization, and Taiwan’s internationalization. I am filing these reports—the first of many to come—to document this progress.
Whether this is going to be the “The Golden Decade,” a term coined by President Ma, it is still way too early to tell. Let us jointly measure the progress in more tangible time increments: one day at a time.
If you have any questions or comments, you can contact Jay Lin at firstname.lastname@example.org.