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[Editorial] A Step Forward for the Media Sector

Posted October. 30, 2009 08:18,   


The Constitutional Court upheld yesterday disputed media reform laws railroaded by the ruling Grand National Party despite acknowledging violations in the passage. The nine justices agreed with the main opposition Democratic Party’s claim of violations of National Assembly law, citing proxy votes and the unconstitutionality of the immediate revote on a single piece of legislation. The court ruled the passage valid, however, noting that procedural defects were not serious enough for invalidation. Thus, the laws will take effect Sunday.

While the court acknowledged that the passage was partially illegitimate, one should consider what had caused the violation. National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o exercised his authority to introduce the bills to the main session after a prolonged stalemate. The Democratic Party used physical force to prevent the passage of the bills, making it impossible for parliament to proceed with normal voting procedure. The primary responsibility for the procedural gaffe lies with the opposition party. Nevertheless, the Democratic Party made the wrong decision of going outside the National Assembly to block the media laws, damaging the spirit of separation of powers.

The court rightfully reaffirmed the principle of the National Assembly being responsible for the result of a decision made by majority vote. Parties should refrain from taking laws that passed parliament to the Constitutional Court. The Democratic Party’s opposition to the media laws is known to stem from its political intent to keep the status quo in domestic media.

Now that the court has upheld the validity of the laws, the opposition party should stop waging a politically and ideologically motivated struggle and maintain the spirit of the laws.

The new laws are expected to bring a variety of advantages to the public. The laws allow new broadcasters to enter the market, so viewers can get a wider choice of channels. More broadcasters will mean more news from different perspectives, enhancing objectivity and fairness of domestic news reporting that has often been criticized as biased.

Since the opposition party took the matter to the court, the administration has been unable to take follow-up measures. At a time when the oligopoly of terrestrial broadcasting is being increasingly solidified, an overhaul of media laws is urgently needed to promote competition in broadcasting and enhance the quality of cultural content.

Korea lags far behind other advanced economies that have recognized media’s ability to create value added services. Now that the confusion over the media laws is over, the administration should begin to enhance the public effects of the revised laws at full speed.