[EDITORIALS]Dangerous Views on the Media

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[EDITORIALS]Dangerous Views on the Media

President Kim Dae-jung said during an interview in Newsweek's Korean edition that the government's intervention in media affairs was a measure taken in response to a wish expressed by the general public for media reform. Mr. Kim then said that the government is not touching upon media companies' ownership structure and the independence of editorial boards from the management demanded by civic groups, and is intervening only in "the two issues of fair tax payments and the transparency of the advertisement and subscription businesses."

We wonder how he measured that public opinion to which he attributes government media reform, and we wonder about his overall view of the press as revealed in the interview, which contained several controversial statements.

Mr. Kim said, "Eighty percent of the people and 90 percent of media officials advocate media reform." He said the same thing in his March town meeting. But we cannot confirm the details of the survey nor who conducted it. If the question that was asked was a simple, "Should the media be reformed?" then the answer is obvious. That's like asking children, "Should we be good to our parents?"

According to a survey recently conducted by a daily newspaper, 63 percent said "yes" to the question, "Do you think tax audits of media companies and the Fair Trade Commission investigation were politically motivated?" Only 20 percent responded "no." Of the respondents, 71 percent said media reform should be carried out by the media companies themselves. Only 22 percent said the government should do the job. If the government begins to interfere in newspapers based on public opinion, will it reflect these results? We are concerned about purported reforms that resort to populism and hazy references to popular opinion.

Mr. Kim said one of the two areas the government is looking at is tax compliance. We have repeatedly said that no one would oppose a straightforward tax audit. But is the horde of investigators at media companies routine? We are worried that the political intention behind the tax probes will also become the justification for government intervention in the media.

Mr. Kim said, "The media should also get advertising and subscribers fairly; all media companies should have the same opportunities and advertising and subscriptions should be equitable to prevent a few media companies from monopolizing the market." This statement is diametrically opposed to the principles of a market economy and free competition. Readership and advertising are not decided by newspaper companies, but by the readers and the advertisers themselves.

Afraid that force and unreasonable obstinacy may come together here, the government has set up regulations to be voluntarily complied with by newspaper companies in order to obstruct unfair transactions.

If only a few companies are monopolizing readership and advertisements, it is because the readers and the advertising agencies have chosen that way.

Neither the newspaper companies nor the government should intervene here. Equitable allotment of the advertising market is a dangerous goal, applicable only to the media in communist states. It could lead quickly to government control over media companies through intervention in their management.

The administration said soon after its inauguration that media reform should be pursued by the media companies themselves.

Where did that resolution go?
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