[EDITORIAL] Leave Newspapers Alone
The Fair Trade Commission's attempt to hastily revive the set of regulations on unfair business by the print media is extremely worrisome. The commission reportedly will announce early next month the final version of the regulations, which are almost identical to the draft version released in late February.
Of late, various types of pressure on the print media have intensified. Even rank-and-file reporters are targeted by the National Tax Service in the ongoing probe into the newspaper industry. Under such a circumstance, the FTC's attempt to hastily revive the regulations is apt to raise suspicion that "invisible hand" is at work.
It is an undeniable fact that the "Types and Standards of Unfair Trade Actions in the Newspaper Business," as the regulations are officially known, include age-old business practices common in the newspaper industry that need to be corrected. However, these problems should be resolved voluntarily by newspaper companies, not by government intervention.
As the Korean Newspaper Association pointed out, the commission abolished the regulations toward the end of 1999 in the name of deregulation despite the association's opposition. It is inconsistent of the commission to attempt to resurrect and strengthen regulations that it scrapped only little more than a year ago. The commission's plan to make it compulsory for newspaper delivery stations to sell more than two newspapers is feared to lead to abuses.
The idea of preventing large newspaper companies from unilaterally setting high advertising rates ignores the fact that there are a large number of newspaper companies, and advertisers enjoy a buyers market. In addition, how can the commission set the price of newspapers when newspapers are categorized as intellectual properties? The FTC's plan to limit the number of freely distributed papers to 10 percent of papers sold in the market is only possible when a trustworthy Audit Bureau of Circulation is at work.
The FTC's attempt to impose regulations on newspaper distribution and advertising systems without dealing with the above-mentioned issues first is in direct violation of its basic principles of allowing autonomy and promoting competition. The commission would do good to heed the Korea Press 2000 Committee's criticism that adding new clauses to existing laws or devising special laws for the sole purpose of dissolving a monopoly and oligopoly in the newspaper market violates Section 2, Article 37 of the Constitution, which stipulates against excessive government regulation.