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[Editorial] The Real Reason Behind the Broadcasters` Protest

[Editorial] The Real Reason Behind the Broadcasters` Protest

Posted December. 31, 2008 05:31,   


The ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party locked horns yesterday over seven media bills. Opposition lawmakers rejected a compromise after calling the bills “evil legislation” through which the government seeks to dominate broadcasting and allow conglomerates and print media to own broadcast networks. Facing strong resistance, ruling party floor leader Hong Joon-pyo said, “The media bills can be deferred until February if the Democratic Party makes a compromise,” implying the ruling party could use the bills as a bargaining chip for passing economy-related bills.

The Democratic stance is in line with that of unionized workers at media and certain broadcasters that vehemently oppose cross-ownership of print media and television stations. Among member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Korea is the only one to forbid cross media ownership. In Japan, three major newspapers own television stations. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission released in 2006 a report showing that cross-ownership of print and television improves news quantity and quality. In an era of media convergence led by Internet-based TV service that accommodates hundreds of channels, media regulations adopted in 1980 by the military government simply cannot adapt to a rapidly changing media environment. In addition, the media bills are amendments to laws ruled unconstitutional or inconsistent with the Constitution.

MBC is airing news programs labeling the media bills as part of the government’s conspiracy to privatize the broadcaster and hand it over to print media or conglomerates. As if the airwaves are their own property, the network’s staff is staging a political protest to keep their jobs secure. Their salaries can rise as high as 114 million won (90,512 U.S. dollars). The Democratic Party is waging a proxy war to protect the vested interests of MBC workers.

The bills seek to ease regulations on broadcasting and communications in fostering the media industry. The expected benefits are an increase in production worth 21 trillion won (16.6 billion dollars) and 211,000 new jobs. While accusing the ruling party of helping conglomerates monopolize broadcasting, the Democratic Party is doing nothing to nurture global media groups.

The ulterior motive of the Democratic Party’s opposition is to defend the vested interests of broadcasters, which were its allies under the previous administration. To sharpen the global competitiveness of the domestic media industry amid the dramatic change in the global sector, the ruling party must not surrender to group egoism and factionalism. It should remember that the media bills cannot be reduced to a bargaining chip.