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[Editorial] Media Control?

Posted January. 04, 2007 03:00,   


A bill passed in a cabinet meeting yesterday on the broadcasting and telecommunication committee, which will be in charge of governing policies on broadcasting and information and telecommunications. Under the bill, members of the committee will be designated by the president.

Among five members, three, including the president and vice president, will be directly appointed by the president, and the other two members of the standing committee will be chosen by the president among the candidates recommended by organizations representing various parts of the Korean society. The bill actually gives the president a blank check while denying the National Assembly the right to recommend any candidate.

Even though the bill says “organizations representing various parts of the Korean society,” it is highly likely for the organizations that only cater to the people in power and that once took the lead in putting in place the unconstitutional legislation on regulating newspapers to disguise themselves as the legitimate representatives of the Korean people. There is no way to understand the bill other than it has been designed out of the intention to control broadcasting and telecommunication sector by using the civil groups that hold responsibility to nobody and by disregarding the National Assembly, the very representatives of the Korean people. Since the members of the committee will have the authority to recommend, select and designate the president, board members and auditors of KBS, MBC and EBS, the president will be able to dominate the entire broadcasting system through the committee members.

A month ago, after the announcement of the new bill, the government seemed to have decided to leave the designation of the committee member to the National Assembly when the public opinion formed against the bill for violating the independency and impartiality of broadcasting and telecommunications. However, the government has switched its position to get “civil groups” involved. It is difficult to understand why the government is pushing ahead with such an unreasonable bill other than to use the broadcasting and telecommunications bill to influence the presidential election scheduled this year.

The legislation on the newspaper industry, which was designed to put pressure on newspapers with critical voices against the government, was ruled unconstitutional half a year ago, but it still has not been either revised or abolished. In this situation, if the committee falls under the control of people in power, the neutrality and independence of the press will be shaken from the root. Now the freedom of speech is at a crossroads.

President Roh Moo-hyun said, “If any political doubts over the committee formation are raised, I can leave setting up the committee to the next administration.” Then since the selection of committee member can wait, there is no reason to introduce the bill that gives the president the power to designate committee members now.

If the government pushes forward with the legislative bill, which not only opposition party members but also some of ruling party member find problematic, it is only likely to give rise to political trouble as was seen in the case of appointment of Jeon Hyo-sook as the chief justice of the Constitutional Court. The ball is now passed from the government court after the cabinet meeting, and it is time for both the ruling and opposition parties to deliberate the bill and get rid of clauses that can be a problem in the future.