[EDITORIALS]Newspapers Under Self Control

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[EDITORIALS]Newspapers Under Self Control

Despite our criticism and protests, the new newspaper regulation has been imposed. The Fair Trade Commission held a meeting Friday and approved the plan for the self-regulation of newspapers, prepared by the Korean Newspaper Association. The rules takes effect Saturday.

Doubts still linger that the regulation is forceful intervention in the press disguised as self-control. The government has revived the newspaper regulation, which it has abolished in line with deregulation policy two and a half years ago, citing some spurious reasons. The regulation is too weak to distinguish self-control from intervention and the Fair Trade Commission can meddle in management of newspaper companies whenever it wants, taking advantage of some hidden clauses. Therefore, the anti-trust watchdog should ban the regulation and clear its image of gagging the press.

The Korean Newspaper Association proposed the self-regulation to avert a FTC crackdown on newspaper firms. However, the effectiveness is doubtful.

The first objection relates to the clause that the number of free copies should be less than 20 percent of paid circulation, as determined by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Yet, the standard is ambiguous and has many points of possible arguments. The members of the Audit Bureau of Circulation, including JoongAng, Chosun and DongA, should have accurate circulation figures, applying the same standard at the same time to carry out self-regulation appropriately. Banning promotional gifts is a proper measure, but it is doubtful the regulation will be observed. A newspaper fair competition panel, which would supervise observance of the self-regulation, should be formed and managed in an impartial manner.

The newspaper industry itself is responsible for correcting violations of sales and advertising. The industry's self regulation was about to take root before the government regulations were revived. All firms should restrain themselves and establish order in the newspaper market. That is the way to avoid government intervention. If the government does not have a political purpose to gag the press, it should let the Korean Newspaper Association control the industry voluntarily.
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