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[Editorial] Decisive Action Needed on Media Bill

Posted May. 18, 2009 08:16,   


The main opposition Democratic Party is increasingly blatant in its intention to derail consensus building between the ruling and opposition parties on media law. Opposition members of the parliamentary committee on culture, sports, tourism, broadcasting and communication unanimously said they cannot keep their promise of putting the bill to a vote if their demand for a public opinion survey on the bill is not met. The opposition party`s new majority leader Lee Kang-rae also said, “If the ruling Grand National Party tries to push ahead with the vote with its majority status, we will fight to the death. We will demand withdrawal of the bill on behalf of the people.” This runs counter to the agreement between the two sides to put four bills, namely those on broadcasting, newspaper, Internet protocol TV and information communication network bills, to a vote that came after two failed attempts.

The two sides agreed March 2 to put media bill to a vote in June at the National Assembly after gathering public opinion for 100 days through a social discussion body. Despite criticism that discussing the bill outside the National Assembly itself defies the spirit of parliamentarism, the Democratic Party forced the indecisive ruling party to agree. This time, the opposition party seems intent on blocking the vote at whatever cost by using public opinion surveys as an excuse once again. In other words, the Democratic Party has made a fool of the public with a false promise for the sake of foot-dragging when it had no intention to vote in the first place.

The media bill seeks to nurture a more competitive media industry by removing barriers between the newspaper and broadcast industries. It can create a completely new sector based on the integration of content and information and communication with tens of thousands of new jobs for young talents. It can also substantially ensure diversity of public opinion, which has been monopolized by certain public broadcasters whose biased and distorted programs often mislead the public, such as mad cow disease coverage by "PD Notebook" or one on the 2004 impeachment of then President Roh Moo-hyun. Several leftist groups have condemned the bill as a tool for the administration and conservative capitalists "to take control over media." Underneath their criticism, however, lies a desperate attempt to preserve the vested rights of the opposition party, certain broadcasters and leftist groups enjoyed over the past 10 years.

Unfortunately, the ruling party has failed to respond wisely to its rival`s blatant move to shatter the agreement. The government has also yet to show serious and aggressive efforts to convince the public why the media act is needed. It is no exaggeration to say the success of the Lee Myung-bak administration depends on whether the National Assembly passes social reform bills, including those on media and temporary workers, in June. If approved, they will lay the foundation for overcoming the economic crisis and making Korea an advanced nation.

It is time for the government and the ruling party to take great efforts to have these important bills passed and achieve their intended outcome. If they continue to sit on their hands, the reform drive could be derailed by the coalition of the opposition party and leftist groups and cause discord within the ruling party. In the worst case scenario, the incumbent administration could face an untimely demise.