As the only true democracy in the Chinese-speaking world, the Taiwanese media consistently exhibit a level of openness that is almost unheard of in Asia’s other Chinese societies. Since the end of martial law in 1987, when the ban on independent newspapers was lifted, there has been a rapid proliferation of print, news and entertainment media, with plenty of feisty political debate and steamy celebrity gossip. You’ll need to read or speak Chinese to make the most of this, however, Otherwise you’ll have to rely on a handful of English-language newspapers, magazines and websites for news and information.
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For English-language news on Taiwan and the rest of the world, there are three daily newspapers, all of which have online editions: the China Post (wwww.chinapost.com.tw), the Taipei Times (wwww.taipeitimes.com) and Taiwan News (wwww.etaiwannews.com). The writing and editing standards of these papers are fairly high, and some of the domestic coverage can be quite incisive; however, international news is largely restricted to wire copy. All three have weekend entertainment listings and can be bought at bookshops, convenience stores, kiosks and business-class hotels. For more in-depth international news and business coverage, newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal Asia, the Financial Times and the International Herald Tribune can be found in five-star hotels and some news kiosks in Taipei.
Radio and television
There are more than 150 radio broadcasting companies in Taiwan, with regular domestic programming by medium-wave AM and VHF FM stations in Mandarin and other Chinese dialects, chiefly Taiwanese and Hakka. The only English-language radio station, International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT; wwww.icrt.com.tw), broadcasts 24 hours a day at 100.7 MHz FM in northern and southern Taiwan, and 100.1 MHz FM in central Taiwan. Its broadcasts include a mix of Western pop music, news headlines, talk shows and community service segments. It also carries some BBC World Service programmes, which is otherwise unavailable in Taiwan.
Taiwanese television can offer travellers some interesting insights into nuances of the island’s popular culture, with a host of variety and game shows, sitcoms, soap operas and films in Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka. Even if you don’t speak Chinese, it’s worth channel-surfing in your hotel room at least once, just to get a feel for what the locals watch. In terms of English-language programming, cable TV is available in most urban areas, offering an assortment of generally American news, movie and theme channels.