For radio and television broadcasting, the Government Information Office (GIO) set up the Golden Bell Awards to encourage innovation and enhancement of the broadcasting programs. The awards were named after the bell used in ancient times at ceremonies. In ancient China, music, in which bells were the most important instrument, was made to educate people in the art of courtesy through the harmony created by the sound of bells resonating with that of stone instruments.
When the Golden Bell Awards were first awarded in 1965, there were only nine categories, which included newscasts, music programs and commercials. The awards ceremony in 1966 saw the number of individual awards increased, taking the total awards to 13. Included in these awards were "newscasts to China" and "psychological warfare programs to China," reflecting the atmosphere of the times and the government's expectations of broadcast media.
In 1971, television programs were first eligible to win the Golden Bell Awards. As a newly emerging medium popular amongst the public, the Golden Bell Awards became more well-known. In 1980, the GIO set three goals for the Golden Bell Awards: to become more international, more professional, and more artistic.
The 1982 Golden Bell Awards were the first to have an international flavor. At this time, exhibitions of foreign television programs were held, and the national television stations of Southeast Asian countries were invited to showcase their best programs. To encourage more in-depth research to be conducted, new awards for "theoretical study" and "engineering technology" were added. In 1984, before the awards ceremony began, a cocktail party was for the first time held for the nominees to show that being nominated is an honor equivalent to receiving an award.
In 1991, two breakthroughs were made. One was to adopt a system of holding a drawing to select the screening jury of judges. The other was to present the awards over two days in two phases. This change was necessitated by the rapid increase of radio and television programs, in both quantity and quality. In 1993, it was decided to separate radio awards from television awards to cope with the increasing number of award categories and the subsequent increase in time needed to present the awards. Under the new arrangement, awards for radio and television are handed out in alternate years. In 1997, cable television programs were first admitted to compete for the awards with the offerings of terrestrial stations.
In 2003, to meet the requirement set forth in the government's Challenge 2008 National Development Plan concerning digital television, the Golden Bell Awards ceremony was for the first time presented on Chinese Television System's digital channel. The next year, the new categories "programming for children and youth" and "innovative marketing programming" were added, the latter to encourage enterprises' creativity. Another additional award was "drama of the year," whose winner was to be voted by the public through the newspapers and the Internet. This change greatly increased the public's participation in selecting award recipients and was also a response to the ongoing debate as to whether the Golden Bell Awards should move more towards commerce or art.
The Golden Bell Awards are not only the ultimate honor for the radio and television professionals but also an annual eye-catching event. To better accord with the times, the award categories have become increasingly narrow, and changes have been made. What's unchanged is that the awards remain highly regarded by the radio and television broadcasting. As a record of Taiwan's radio and television broadcasting, the beautiful music and pictures presented at the Golden Bell Awards have remained alive in the hearts of many people.