Go to contents

Newspaper Act Bothers Ministry of Culture and Tourism at Last Moment

Newspaper Act Bothers Ministry of Culture and Tourism at Last Moment

Posted May. 27, 2005 03:40,   


The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is getting into hot water ahead of the enactment of Newspaper Act that is scheduled to enter into force on July 28.

Because the ministry is facing difficulties in tackling challenges that arise due to friction over matters such as the establishment of a newspaper circulation office, publicizing newspaper circulation, and the position of the Press Development Committee. To make matters worse, those who are involved in these challenges are showing clear discrepancies over the issues.

In regards to an issue over national financial support for the establishment of a newspaper circulation office, the presidents of six major press companies, including Gyeonghyang Sinmun, Kukmin Ilbo, Munhwa Ilbo, Seoul Sinmun, Segyetimes, and Hankyoreh met Chung Dong-chea, the minister of Culture and Tourism, last Tuesday and called for the expenditure of national budget money for the establishment of a newspaper circulation office.

A source from the ministry said, “While the ministry asked presidents of six press companies to establish the office as a legal foundation with the donation of individual companies and promised support of its operational expenses from the national budget, the presidents asked the ministry to inject tens of billions of funds for the smooth settlement of this system first.”

However, the ministry responded that if the ministry sets aside such a great amount of money to support private newspaper companies, we would face a serious backlash from those who see it as unfair budget spending. In fact, the ministry didn’t assign any budget for the costs related to the establishment of a newspaper circulation office this year. Thus, it is still up in the air whether it will be able to test the feasibility of this plan.

In addition, the Press Development Committee that consists of nine honorary members with the support of secretariat is designed to raise funds for the development of the press and assist newspaper companies. However, the role of committee has been under attack from its initiation due to a great overlap with the function of the Korea Press Foundation.

A source from Korea Press Foundation said, “Providing study and training programs for journalists and supporting their authorship, which will be assumed by the committee, is very similar to what the foundation is doing now,” adding, “If the function of the committee is extended with the development of funds, it will cause unnecessary costs.”

In addition, some raise questions over the efficiency of the committee operation, saying that it is out of question to expect proper management of this committee because those who are in charge of dealing with implementation of such a great amount of funds are mere honorary members who don’t stay in office. The Korea Press Foundation asked the ministry to develop measures that could minimize the functions of the committee.

According to Newspaper Act, individual press companies must report their newspaper circulation and their management materials. The Press Development Committee may examine the credibility of the presented materials or outsource them to other agencies. However, press activities groups such as the National Union of Mediaworkers expressed a worry over this measure because the Korea Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), which is a single agency the committee can contact, is not capable of producing credible data.

Responding to such views, Kim Chung-geuk, chief of the press team for ABC, said, “If the committee set up a new agency only for this examination, it will have to bear a lot of additional costs and face difficulties in obtaining professionalism.”

Even worse, some small newspaper companies are resisting the forced revelation of circulation figures. A source from the ministry said, “Some newspaper companies, which worry about financial difficulties due to a decrease in the demand for ads if they reveal their circulation numbers, prefer paying fine to revealing the amount.”

Jung-Bo Suh suhchoi@donga.com