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[Opinion] The Truth Behind the Ad Boycott Campaign

Posted September. 01, 2008 04:07,   


Benjamin Day in 1833 published the New York Sun, the first U.S. penny press newspaper, and this was only possible because of advertising revenue. The penny newspaper, which emerged at a time when a daily cost six cents, played a pivotal role in raising newspaper circulation. Between 1830 and 1840, the United States saw population rise 32 percent, but the number of printed newspaper copies doubled and circulation jumped 2.9 times from about 68 million to 196 million copies. The increased number of subscribers helped develop the newspaper industry and freedom of the press, which eventually resulted in the development of democracy.

Advertising can also be called revenue for maintaining and developing democracy. Without advertisements, the prices of newspapers will inevitably rise and low income earners will find it difficult to buy them. As a result, balanced media coverage and democracy will be threatened. Advertising also boosts sales by offering information on products and services to potential buyers. Even if a company develops a highly appealing product, it can go bankrupt from poor sales unless the product is advertised in time. Advertising is one of the main pillars of capitalism and a market economy. Global advertising expenses reached 385 billion dollars in 2006.

Following anti-U.S. beef protests, the ad boycott campaign was launched on the Internet against the three major dailies -- The Dong-A Ilbo, The Chosun Ilbo and The JoongAng Ilbo. According to prosecutors, most of the campaign members belong to the Citizens’ Coalition for Democratic Media, the New Progressive Party and the Korean Government Employees` Union. They justify their activities by citing their rights as consumers, but an investigation shows such anti-democratic and anti-media activities are aimed at damaging mainstream newspapers.

Due to their threats, some 250 companies recorded operating losses of 11 billion won in June and July alone. Operating losses cause companies to cut advertising expenses, thus making newspaper companies victims. This is tantamount to media oppression. “The (ad boycott campaign) idea does not endorse newspapers holding different points of view. This negates the principle of freedom of expression,” professor Moon Jae-wan of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies said at a seminar Friday. We will have to keep in mind what he said.

Editorial Writer Gwon Sun-taek (maypole@donga.com)