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Controversy over Huge Newspaper Bounties

Posted May. 11, 2007 07:54,   


The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Thursday that it decided to pay a total of 195,320,000 won as a monetary reward to 99 people who reported violations of local newspapers such as handing out giveaways and free newspapers at a committee meeting responsible for providing rewards for reporting violations.

This is the largest amount for a single kind of violation that the committee has paid since 2002 when the FTC introduced a bounty system to prevent violations in fair trade (The regulations for the newspaper industry were adopted in 2005).

Critics say that the large reward is out of proportion because the violation cases of the newspaper industry are smaller and less serious than those of other industries such as those of large conglomerates, and the disproportionate reward might be used to punish newspapers critical of the administration.

A total of 110 violations were reported and most of them were found when the FTC launched a major investigation into hundreds of newspapers in Seoul and the metropolitan area at the end of last year.

Depending on the degree of violations, the rewards ranged from 300,000 won to 10 million won. The average amount of the monetary reward was 1,970,000 won, the largest amount since the bounty system was introduced.

The FTC has come up with various incentives to increase the reporting of violations since last May.

It doubled the maximum amount of bounty from 5 million to 10 million won per report and increased its “multiple rewards” program in accordance with the amount of evidence provided. The multiple rewards refer to a reward system that pays as much as 20 times the price of any illegal giveaways, such as a department store gift certificate that a certain newspaper offered readers to generate subscriptions.

The FTC has paid more money in rewards this year than in the previous seven cases: a total of 173,710,000 won.

Some branch offices of newspapers criticized that, “The government intends to turn small branch offices into felons by paying out billions of won in rewards.”

“Free newspapers are all over the subways and numerous Internet portal sites are openly handing out free gift certificates. The government’s regulation of the selling practices of newspapers is nothing but muzzling the press,” said a chief of a newspaper branch office in Gyeonggi Province.