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[EDITORIALS]Unshackle the media

Sept 27,2005
Noh Sung-dai, the head of the Korean Broadcasting Commission, said he thought allowing dual ownership of both newspapers and broadcasting companies is desirable in the long run. Mr. Noh was speaking at the National Assembly inspection of his agency, and his remarks are noteworthy. The law that prohibits dual ownership has been in place since the military regimes of the 1980s.
Mr. Noh was careful in his comments, but seemed to be firmly in favor of the idea, saying that if the National Assembly were interested in such a legal change, the commission would consider it as well. He knows, of course, that the question is a sensitive one that could lead to criticism and acrimony. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that he would voice his opinion on the subject.
Academics call the breakdown of the barriers between newspapers, broadcasters and Internet news organs “media convergence,” and the stunning advances in digital technology have led to an increase in the speed of that convergence.
This “big bang” in the media around the world is leading to dramatic changes in the communications industry. Korea has world-class technology, but the laws and regulations in effect here prevent them from competing in the new landscape. The administration and the National Assembly, busy calculating political gains and losses, seem oblivious to the changing environment and instead are thinking in the same old way: Keep the media under control with restrictions.
In the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan, newspapers, broadcasting and other communications technologies are already allowed under the umbrella of a single owner. The European Union has even set out guiding principles for media convergence.
Mr. Roh said in his campaign only that he would set up broadcasting and communications committees to study the matter. So far, there has been nothing but debate and controversy, ideological conflict and calculations of gains and losses.
It’s nothing but retrogression for a country in the 21st century to be a loser in this media competition because of political fighting while the global industry gets bigger and bigger.
The Assembly must look at legislation that encourages the media to combine and earn profits, before it’s too late for Korea to catch up.


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