Taiwan's TVBS says it is the victim of a political witch-hunt Taiwanese cable television station TVBS yesterday rejected accusations it was owned or funded by the mainland and was trying to subvert President Chen Shui-bian's government. The station said smear tactics would not work, describing the claims as part of a 'political witch-hunt' in the wake of a series of reports on a snowballing corruption scandal that could implicate Mr Chen. 'The government has started a well-orchestrated campaign against our station by smearing and labelling us pro-communist,' the station said. 'Democracy and freedom of speech are the core values of Taiwan. TVBS urges the government to stop its tactic of targeted persecution and cease trying to choke freedom of speech.' Since June, the popular political talk show TVBS 2100 has reported on various irregularities involving government agencies and officials. Its recent revelations of a subway corruption scandal allegedly involving President Chen's former confidant Chen Che-nan, and its possible political fallout, have seen the station come under attack by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and its supporters. The explosive reports prompted some DPP lawmakers to accuse the station of being 100 per cent owned and funded by the mainland and to demand the Government Information Office (GIO), the media regulator, shut TVBS. But GIO director-general Yao Wen-chih on Saturday denied the probe of TVBS was politically motivated. He said the GIO was acting on lawmakers' demands by seeking help from the National Security Bureau to investigate whether TVBS was owned by the mainland. He said the investigation found TVBS did not have mainland investment but was 100 per cent funded by Hong Kong station TVB. He said that under Taiwanese law, no foreign company could own more than 50 per cent of any Taiwanese media outlet. TVBS had broken the law, Mr Yao said, and the maximum penalty would be revocation of its licence. However, TVBS said it was 47 per cent owned by Bermuda TV Broadcasting Company - believed to be a reinvested company of Hong Kong's TVB - and 53 per cent by the local Oriental Television. The GIO suspects Oriental Television is only a company on paper, but TVBS denies this. The confusion prompted Mr Yao to ask TVBS to clarify its stock and ownership situation and resubmit documents for examination, even though a GIO panel already approved a renewal of the station's licence last Thursday. The request for a re-examination of the station's ownership prompted criticism from opposition lawmakers and several members of the public for allegedly suppressing press freedom. Media scholars, and even Vice-President Annette Lu Hsiu-lien and DPP lawmaker Lin Cho-shui, criticised the timing of the request.