A Taiwanese news broadcaster has issued an apology after erroneously reporting that Chinese forces had launched an invasion against Taipei amid earthquakes and nuclear meltdowns, which triggered confusion and panic amongst viewers. On Wednesday morning, the Chinese Television Systems (CTS) news channel ran a ticker at the bottom of its news feed that falsely reported the Island was facing missile strikes and that a state of emergency had been declared. Messages such as “New Taipei City was hit by communist missiles, the Taipei port has exploded, facilities and ships were damaged and destroyed” and “On the brink of war … The Chinese Communist party prepares for war … The president has issued an emergency order” flashed on the screen. One message also stated that Chinese special forces had planted explosives in train stations, while others said that there was a “magnitude 7 earthquake in Taishan District” and an “incident at the Second Nuclear Power Plant.”
It wasn’t until hours later that CTS issued an apology and a clarification of the situation. According to the channel, the messages were made for the New Taipei Fire Department to be part of a war and disaster prevention video, adding that production errors resulted in the messages being put on their 7 am broadcast. A spokesperson for the New Taipei City Fire Department told the Guardian that the fake news reels would be used during annual disaster drills on May 5, which would include a simulated missile attack this year. The Department stated “The exercise includes an earthquake scene, tsunami, a bridge collapse and explosion. This year, our boss said we will also include the war scenario in the exercise … It is the first time in recent years.”
In an apology statement, CTS stated that it “solemnly apologizes for the serious oversight that has caused public panic and unnecessary issues for relevant authorities. Immediately, aside from the anchor’s urgent clarification and apology, CTS also clarified and apologized on each of its channels via news crawls. Meanwhile, CTS has begun an internal oversight investigation and will conduct an urgent self-discipline committee meeting to review the major oversight and issue severe punishment against staff members involved. As a member of the Taiwan Broadcasting System, CTS does not take this type of mistake lightly and apologizes once again to the public.”
Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture also released a statement reading “The Ministry of Culture solemnly apologized, except for requiring China Television to immediately submit an incident report, and should be thoroughly reviewed, and must not be repeated.” The Ministry also explained a preliminary report by CTS states that horse racing news was supposed to be displayed, but mistakes made to content storage resulted in the messages accidentally being shown.