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Ruling Party Railroads Disputed Media Reform Bills

Posted July. 23, 2009 08:47,   


The ruling Grand National Party railroaded through parliament yesterday media reform bills in a plenary session that saw the National Assembly speaker invoke his right to hold a vote.

The three bills covered newspapers, broadcasting and Internet protocol TV, or IPTV. A bill on financial holding companies designed to deregulate the domestic financial industry was also passed.

The presidential office lauded the passage, with one official saying, "The National Assembly made the inevitable choice to keep its promise to boost competitiveness of the media industry and create more jobs.”

The passage of the highly disputed bills finally put an end to a year-long struggle between the ruling and opposition parties. Political conflict and social criticism are expected to continue, however, since the main opposition Democratic Party pledged to fight the government and get the passed bills annulled.

With the passage of the bills, large corporations and newspapers can own up to 10 percent of terrestrial broadcast stations and up to 30 percent of cable news networks. If large corporations and newspapers buy stakes in terrestrial stations, they must wait until 2012 to exercise their management rights.

Amid fierce resistance from the opposition, National Assembly Vice Speaker Lee Yoon-sung took over for Speaker Kim Hyong-o. Facing difficulty over chairing the plenary session due to strong resistance from the opposition, Lee called a motion to maintain order at the National Assembly and a floor vote.

Among 162 legislators, 152 voted for the newspaper bill and 10 abstained. The broadcast bill was passed by 150 legislators with three abstentions out of 153 legislators attending. The IPTV bill was unanimously passed by 161 legislators attending.

The broadcast bill was put to a vote twice as Vice Speaker Lee declared an end to the vote even before the quorum was formed.

The Democratic Party, the progressive Democratic Labor Party, and the minor Renewal of Korea Party said they will file a court injunction against the passage. Parliamentary spokesman Heo Yong-beom said, however, “The first vote failed due to a lack of quorum but the second had no problems.”

At a general meeting held after the bills were passed, Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun said, “It is meaningless to fight them at the National Assembly. Along with our party’s floor leader Lee Kang-rae, I will resign as a lawmaker.”