Lunch with TaiwanPlus
The ECCT arranged a Special Lunch with the CEO and senior executives of TaiwanPlus, Taiwan’s first independent English-language video news and entertainment platform for an international audience. The lunch featured presentations by TaiwanPlus CEO Joanne Tsai (蔡秋安), Sara Lin (林宜瑩), Deputy Director of Public Relations, and Andrew Ryan, Deputy Director of the News Center.
Set up in the second half of 2021, TaiwanPlus employs a multinational team, offering multimedia coverage of regional issues and world affairs and sharing Taiwan’s unique voice in a way that resonates globally. It produces its own content but also partners with other content providers to produce programmes.
In her presentation, CEO Joanne Tsai spoke about how her own experience as a student in the United States had demonstrated that knowledge about Taiwan overseas is limited. With a mission to present trusted and authentic perspectives of Taiwan and the region and showcase the vibrant culture, diversity and beauty of Taiwan, TaiwanPlus aims to both fill the information gap as well as showcase the best Taiwan has to offer in terms of culture and art by broadcasting unique voices and sharing untold stories.
Sara Lin stressed that while TaiwanPlus is funded by taxpayers in Taiwan, it maintains complete editorial freedom and aims to present the full complexity and diversity of Taiwan. Andrew Ryan backed this up by saying that he had never received any instructions on what to report on or pressure to promote any particular narrative. He added that TaiwanPlus takes special care to ensure that all reporting is fair, balanced and not seen as promoting partisan interests.
In terms of international viewers of TaiwanPlus, the highest number of visitors to the platform are located in the United States, followed by Japan, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, but people from 129 countries in total have visited TaiwanPlus, either on its website, app or social media. To date, more than 400 hours of content and over 1,900 videos have been uploaded. TaiwanPlus started with just 17 employees but now has over 100 and plans to increase staff to over 140 by June this year.
In order to foster diversity, over 20% of staff are from countries other than Taiwan while there is a combination of young talent and experienced staff.
TaiwanPlus provides a variety of content ranging from news to culture, lifestyle, food, travel, music, entertainment, business and sports. While initially only planned to be launched as an online platform, TaiwanPlus also produces three daily English news programmes that are broadcast on Taiwan’s TV channel, CTS.
Last year, TaiwanPlus hosted an online film festival and launched, in conjunction with partners, “Road to Legacy”, a documentary series about 10 of Taiwan’s indie music bands. More recently, several programmes were produced as part of celebrations of International Women’s Day (on 8 March), including an interview with Maria Ressa, Filipino-American journalist and author, and recipient of the Nobel Peace.
Andrew Ryan spoke about the challenge of making news about Taiwan resonate with an international audience and how his team is working to show why Taiwan matters by choosing stories that have an international relevance and presenting local, regional and international news from a Taiwan perspective. He noted how TaiwanPlus, because it operates in an open society with a free media, has a unique ability to present stories that are suppressed in other countries. He cited as an example, a story about how authorities in Hong Kong had removed the “Pillar of Shame” sculpture from the campus of Hong Kong University as part of efforts to suppress dissent. Created by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt in 1997, the sculpture honours those killed during the 1989 Chinese government crackdown on pro-democracy forces in Tiananmen Square. Stories have also been produced and broadcast about the situation in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
TaiwanPlus has recently started producing regular stories about the war in Ukraine, which offer perspectives from local and international analysts as well as prominent politicians discussing the implications of the war and the similarities between the situation in Ukraine and Russia and between Taiwan and China. Besides political and military analysis, TaiwanPlus has produced human stories related to the crisis in Ukraine, including a story about a Taiwanese family living in Poland, which is offering sanctuary to Ukrainian refugees, and a story about Taiwan’s only Ukrainian restaurant in Ilan, run by a Ukrainian expat living there.
TaiwanPlus has provided coverage and interviews with prominent foreign visitors to Taiwan, including a recent visit by a parliamentary delegation from Sweden.
There are a number of exciting new programmes in the making that will be launched in the next few weeks and months. This includes a new cooking show featuring Jason Wang, who achieved fame as the runner-up in Season 8 of the popular TV cooking contest show, MasterChef.