find new voice
Taiwan: A Taiwanese soap opera
which focuses on young aboriginals who move to urban
communities goes to air on Monday.
It could prove the biggest
crowd-puller for the island's newly launched, first
aboriginal television channel, which also claims to be the
first indigenous television station in Asia.
soap opera Hunter is designed to have broad
The soap opera, Hunter,
follows the lives of two brothers from the Bunun tribe, who
move from their rural home to the city to start a business.
It deals with issues such
as the clash of cultures, and discrimination, with a
complicated love story thrown into the mix.
The programme, which will
air for an hour at 2000 local time on weekday nights, should
have broad appeal both for aboriginal and non-aboriginal
communities, say its makers. It is set to inform and even
challenge people's views about the island's 12 aboriginal
tribes, who account for less than 2% of the island's
population of 23 million people.
Aboriginal groups have
often felt marginalised by mainstream society. But they hope
the new 24-hour television channel - iTV or the Indigenous
Television Network - will be a chance for others to hear
their voice, both at home and overseas.
The station will
collaborate with other indigenous television networks around
the world, including those in the US and Canada.
channel shows a mix of news, entertainment, and
documentaries, giving the island's aboriginals their own
access to the mainstream media for the first time.
Taiwan is multicultural; there are so many
different peoples here
Information Office Minister Pasuya Wen-chih
"There's a diversity of
cultures in Taiwan," said Walis Peilin, who heads the
Cabinet-level Council of Indigenous Peoples, and is a member
of the Tayal tribe.
"The indigenous people of
Taiwan should also have the right to access the power of the
media and pass on our unique culture and languages."
"But we hope all different
groups in Taiwan can support this station, and respect
different ideas and each other," he said.
The station was planned
several years ago. It is not the first station in Taiwan to
broadcast ethnic content. Hakka Television, set up two years
ago, caters to ethnic Hakka - around 15% of the population -
who migrated to Taiwan from the mainland hundreds of years
The stations represent
efforts by the government to promote the island's indigenous
cultures - stressing the island's unique and separate
identity to the Chinese mainland, which still claims Taiwan
as part of its territory.
launchers hope it will diminish
discrimination against aborigines
"Taiwan is multicultural; there are so many
different peoples here," said Government Information Office
Minister Pasuya Wen-chih Yao.
"We have to know each
other... and also preserve the languages, the culture and
art," he said. Aboriginal groups had complained in the past
that the mainstream media stereotyped them, and ignored
important issues which affected their lives.
They see the new station
as a chance to redress the balance, and also challenge some
of the prejudices towards indigenous peoples that many hold
It is a challenge for the
small news team.
"We have to listen to the
people's voice, the people from the tribes," said Kolas,
from Taiwan's Amis tribe, who works as an assistant manager
and reporter at the station's news department.
"Most indigenous people in
Taiwan don't care about day-to day politics. They are facing
tough problems, like unemployment, poor education... these
are the kinds of issues we will focus on in the future.
"Also, we earn our lives
from the environment - mother nature - so that is an
important issue, especially the rights of the land. It's the
most important issue," she said.
Taiwan's tribes, who trace
their roots back 6,000 years, each have their own unique
culture, customs and languages.
The station will broadcast
a mix of aboriginal language programming, and language
learning slots, but much of the station's programming will
be in Mandarin Chinese, which is widely spoken by aboriginal
One problem that station
planners faced was how to ensure that people living in
remote, mountainous communities could access the channel.
The solution: to install satellite receivers in households.
Jim Lu, of the Council of
Indigenous Peoples, said the government had already spent
more than $1m on installing satellite equipment for more
than 10,000 households. The plan is to triple this figure.
Other viewers can receive
the channel on cable television - the government has
assigned it as a "must-carry" station.
The channel has set itself
lofty goals to achieve. But Taiwan is already a
media-saturated island, with eight 24-hour news channels;
five terrestrial stations; 144 satellite channels; and 69
cable providers offering around 80-90 channels.
But if the station
manages to get viewers to begin to question their attitudes
towards aboriginal groups, it will have gone some way to
shifting Taiwanese society's attitudes to its unique tribes.