Posted August. 19, 2005 03:04,
The Regional Newspaper Development Committee (RNDC, chaired by Kim Tae-jin) planned to announce newspapers on August 18 that would be subject to support from the regional newspaper development fund, but this was postponed indefinitely when the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) requested the committee reconsider the subjects to support.
Controversy is growing, with some press organizations protesting that the government is trying to gain influence in the regional media through the distribution of funds.
An official of the RNDC said on August 18, We selected 10 newspapers out of 102 regional newspapers, including 37 that requested assistance, and were trying to announce this, but the MCT said that there were too few newspapers being supported and requested us to reconsider.
MCT Culture Media Bureau Direct Lee Woo-sung explained, Considering that the bill was passed for the balanced development of regional media, we requested a reconsideration according to a policy decision that there were too few subjects. The MCT has the authority to evaluate and supervise the RNDC.
The Regional Newspaper Development Fund, which is to be operated temporarily only until 2010, was created to grow and diversify regional newspapers, and it was allotted a budget of 25 billion won this year for the first time.
An official of the Korea Press Foundation (KPF), which in charge of administrating and managing the fund, commented, After 25 official conferences and on-spot queries, and document reviews, we picked the subjects based on the principle of selection and focus. Since it is the first year of the funds execution, we planned to make the criteria strict and make the regional newspapers follow this criteria.
The Journalists Association of Korea pointed out, The MCTs request for reconsideration is an act that destroys the independence and neutrality of the RNDC. It is the same as saying that the government will monopolize regional newspapers as it pleases by using funding as leverage.
The press is worried that, as shown in this case, the soon to be established Newspaper Development Committee will not be free from governments influence.
Hankuk University foreign studies and mass communications professor Kim Woo-ryong pointed out, There is no guarantee that the government will not exert influence in the Newspaper Development Committee, which has a similar legal status as the RNDC. There is the possibility that the government will only support newspapers that it favors, or let everybody have a share of the funds.