媒體募款停看聽

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2010 / 1月

文‧陳歆怡


不論平時或重大災害發生時,媒體越來越常主動扮演慈善救助的推手;企劃良好的勸募活動不僅可以激發民眾的愛心,對媒體自身的品牌形象也大有助益。然而,當媒體從中介平台跨入執行者的角色,其中的利弊得失為何?站在專業倫理的角度,媒體募款又有何應守的分際?


「您好,這裡是○○台募款晚會,我是伍佰,請問您的貴姓大名?」

88水災後不到一周,各大電視台紛紛製播特別節目募款,除了有悠揚歌聲撫慰人心,不斷插播的災情報導觸動心弦,更有藝人現場慷慨解囊及各家企業call-in進來的大筆捐款,讓感動的氣氛與捐款金額一再推高,數小時內就募得上億善款。

聯合勸募協會秘書長周文珍指出,從經驗上來看,捐款熱潮必然集中在災害發生的頭幾天,媒體「打鐵趁熱」的心態無可厚非,參與社會公益的熱情也值得肯定;掌握「發聲筒」的媒體選擇和有「公信力」的慈善團體結合,確實可以互蒙其利。

然而,雖然多數媒體選擇與公益團體合作或會後「轉捐」給政府,仍有媒體選擇透過「自設」的基金會,從募款、收款到後續的分配執行都「一手包辦」。

對於這種法令管不到的「灰色地帶」(「公益勸募條例」規定,媒體及任何營利事業不得主動發起募款),一般大眾難免會有「公器私用」的疑慮,社福工作者質疑的重點則是:這些媒體設置的基金會是否有做到資訊透明?又是否具備足夠的助人專業?

以TVBS電視台捐助設立的「TVBS關懷台灣文教基金會」來說,這次88水災共募款5億9,000萬元,其於災後1個月上網公佈專款專用計畫,包括受災學生急難救助與就學補助,與政府協調中的校園重建工程,以及與清大合作的屏北高中實驗班計畫等等,並表示部分補助項目的人數及金額尚待各中小學及兒童局提供詳細資料,並且將「與其他社福機構整合,避免重複補助」。

雖然TVBS基金會對媒體的邀訪以「工作忙碌」為由拒絕了,TVBS新聞部資深主管陳依玫卻強調,電視台與基金會是兩個獨立作業的實體,電視台決不會干預基金會的運作,況且,基金會的募款活動及徵信也都有遵循法令並接受主管機關的監督,大眾不必擔心會發生公私不分、金錢流用的情形。

另一個自行募款的媒體「大戶」則是「以林榮三文化公益基金會」為後盾的自由時報,目前為止總共募得超過1億3,000萬元善款,但尚未公佈工作計畫與支用明細。

自由時報副刊主編兼基金會執行長蔡素芬解釋,報社基金會的政策從一開始就是以「人」為目標,且優先針對失怙兒少與孤苦老人提供長期性的生活補助。然而,由於政府製作的災戶名冊不甚可靠,為了「把錢用在真正有需要的人身上」,報社數個月以來「動員了所有記者在明察暗訪,確實很辛苦。」又,由於資料彙整後需要時間評估、制訂一套分配基準,需等一切都安排確定了才會公佈週知。她也強調,未來專戶執行結束時,所有支用明細除了報請主管機關備查,還會編印專刊供所有捐款者留存。

法令疏漏?角色混淆?

對於媒體的自清,NPO工作者仍然抱持疑慮。首先,由於現行勸募法規對於財務透明的要求相當寬鬆,募款單位只需要在「結案」時將支出明細備查,換言之,如果計畫執行一拖數年卻遲遲不結案,這段期間主管機關都可能「放任無為」,社會大眾也難窺其貌;其次,這些動輒凝聚數億捐款的媒體型基金會,實際上都隸屬於「登記地所在」的台北市或台北縣社會局管理,以社會局的人力與審查技術,對於這些基金會「根本不敢管,也管不動!」自律聯盟張宏林說。

撇開上述關於責信與專業度的質疑,傳播學者也有話要說。曾任公視總經理及台視常務董事兼總經理、現為中正大學傳播所副教授的胡元輝即指出,媒體的主要角色應該是「作為各種資訊及意見交流論辯的平台」,即「公共領域」的促成者與監督者,一旦媒體涉入善款分配與重建領域,「豈不形成了監督者與被監督者的角色混淆?」如此一來便違背了「專業倫理」。「更何況,明明是由同一個媒體團隊直接整合、掛在同一塊招牌底下的事業,當然排除不了瓜田李下的嫌疑。」

胡元輝進一步點出,媒體在災後募款中,其實只盡了宣傳整合的力量,然而,媒體一旦將分配大權攬在身上,來自社會大眾的資源便被輕易地累積、聚焦為媒體企業自己的榮耀;「事實上,媒體參與公益,除了形象塑造的無形利益,也有商業利益的盤算。」胡元輝舉例,以大型災害募款來說,媒體除了省下藝人、名人在晚會上的「演出費」,上升的收視率能提高廣告量,後續還能洽談「深度報導節目」的贊助。

然而,問題無關乎媒體的「動機良善與否」,而是「媒體能否守住分際」,舉例而言,蘋果日報透過經常性的報導「隨手」替個案募款,「雖也是替報社形象加持,卻是可被接受的模式。」

以88水災來說,「媒體能對社會發揮的最大貢獻,其實是在災後重建的長遠道路上,扮演好資訊平台及監督者的角色,如果因為投入募款而束手束腳不敢持平監督,甚至自己攬功、作假而傷害了大眾的信賴,長遠來看反而得不償失,」胡元輝一語道破。

解鈴還須繫鈴人,在這個媒體當道卻又飽受爭議的年代,關於媒體公共價值與理想性的重建,何妨就從募款角色的檢討開始?

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EN

Stop, Look, and Listen: Fundraising Campaigns by Taiwan's Media

Chen Hsin-yi /tr. by Scott Williams

The media has been playing an ever more active role in promoting charitable aid in recent years, both in ordinary times and after disasters. What are the plusses and minuses of the media's transformation from neutral platform to active participant? What ethical lines does it need to avoid crossing?


Each of Taiwan's major television stations aired a fundraising program within a week of Typhoon Morakot striking the island. In addition to soothing musical performances, the programs featured frequent heart-wrenching updates from the disaster area. Generous donations by celebrities and corporations created an emotional atmosphere that generated still more donations, enabling these programs to raise hundreds of millions of NT dollars in just a few hours.

Chou Wen-chen, secretary general of the United Way of Taiwan, says that experience has shown that donation fever peaks in the few days after a disaster. By working with trusted charitable organizations, the media can use its platform to benefit everyone.

However, while many media outlets chose to work with social welfare groups or donate the funds they raised to the government, others chose to go it alone, establishing their own foundations to solicit, collect, and distribute donations and manage subsequent projects. Given that their actions fall into a gray area unaddressed by the law, the public can't help but be concerned that these media-established foundations are putting public resources to private uses. Social-welfare workers have slightly different concerns: Are these media-established foundations operating in a transparent manner? And do they have sufficient expertise to actually help people?

The TVBS Caring for Taiwan Culture and Education Foundation, established by television station TVBS, raised NT$590 million after Typhoon Morakot. One month after the storm, it announced on its website its plans for spending the money, which included providing disaster aid and educational assistance to students affected by the disaster, and working with the government on school reconstruction. It also stated that it was awaiting more detailed information from elementary and middle schools and from the Child Welfare Bureau before determining the number and amount of some of the subsidies, and added that it would "integrate its efforts with those of other social welfare groups to avoid providing redundant subsidies."

The TVBS foundation has rejected media requests for interviews on the grounds that it is too busy. May Chen, a senior executive in the TVBS news division, emphasizes that the foundation and the TV station are independent entities, and that the TV station does not interfere with the foundation's operations. She says further that the foundation raises funds in accordance with the law and under the oversight of the competent authorities, so the public needn't worry that TVBS will appropriate foundation funds for its own purposes.

The Liberty Times, which backs the Lin Rung San Foundation of Culture and Social Welfare, is another major media player that fundraises on its own foundation's behalf. Though the foundation has already raised in excess of NT$130 million, it has yet to publicize its plans or expenditures.

Tsai Su-fen, editor-in-chief of The Liberty Times literary supplement and executive director of the paper's foundation, explains that the policy of the newspaper and the foundation has always been "people oriented" and has sought primarily to provide long-term assistance to orphaned children and needy seniors. However, she says that the government's lists of disaster victims are unreliable and that the paper has spent months investigating to ensure that money goes to those who are truly needy. Once they have the information in hand, it will take still more time to evaluate it and establish standards for the distribution of funds. The paper does not plan to publicize its efforts until everything is in place.

Legal loopholes, blurred roles?

NPO workers remain dubious of the media's statements about itself. They note first that current regulations on fundraising remain lax in their demands for financial transparency. Groups that engage in fundraising need only provide a list of their expenditures when they complete a project. In other words, if work on a project drags on for years without wrapping up, the competent authorities are likely to remain hands-off for the duration, making it difficult for the public to get a clear picture of what the foundation's really doing. Second, these media foundations, which routinely raise hundreds of millions in donations, fall under the jurisdiction of the local authorities of the place in which they are registered, i.e. the Taipei City Bureau of Social Affairs or the Taipei County Social Affairs Bureau. These bureaus have so little manpower and knowledge of audits that "they don't dare and are in fact incapable of overseeing these foundations," says Chang Hung-lin, secretary general of the Taiwan NPO Self-Regulation Alliance.

Setting aside the above concerns about accountability and professionalism, communications scholars have raised yet another issue. Hu Yuan-hui is a former CEO of Taiwan's Public Television Service and a former president and board member at TTV who now teaches in the Department of Communications at National Chung Cheng University. He says that the media's principal roles should be as "a platform for exchange and discussion of all kinds of information and opinions" and as a facilitator and overseer of the public sphere. Hu wonders how media outlets involved in reconstruction and the allocation of charitable donations avoid blurring the lines between supervisor and supervised. In his view, the failure to keep these two roles distinct constitutes a violation of professional ethics.

Hu further notes that the media's disaster fundraising does nothing but consolidate the collective strength of the public. But when the media then claims as its own the right to distribute these funds, it uses these collective resources to burnish its own image. "In fact, media corporations gain material benefits from their participation in charity work, not just intangible benefits to their image," says Hu. He notes, for example, that fundraising for disaster relief enables media corporations to avoid having to pay appearance fees to performers and celebrities, gives their stations higher ratings that allow them to run more advertising, and enables them to negotiate sponsorship for follow-up programs that report on disaster-related issues in more depth.

But the media's motivation for doing charity work isn't the issue. The real question is whether it can maintain a strict separation between its media operations and its charitable foundations.

With regard to Typhoon Morakot, Hu says: "The media can make the greatest contribution by being a good information portal and monitor on the long road to reconstruction. If its fundraising activities make it reluctant to act as a neutral observer, cause it to monopolize work, or prompt it to engage in fraud, it will lose the public's trust. In the long term, that loss would outweigh any more immediate gains."

The one who made a mess in the first place should be the one to clean it up. In this media-dominated, controversy-saturated era, why shouldn't we begin the effort to rebuild the media's public value and reestablish its idealism with an examination of its fundraising activities?

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