[EDITORIALS]Pop music's food chain

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[EDITORIALS]Pop music's food chain

Controversy over behind-the-back dealings between television programs and pop singers has surfaced again. A former MBC producer, Hwang Yong-wu, was charged with receiving money from a manager in exchange for letting an aspiring singer appear on his pop music chart show. The incident seems to show that more than sour grapes was behind the complaints of novice singers that the television world was controlled by mammoth management companies and that they couldn't dream of becoming popular without paying the price -- in the literal sense. Investigations by the Seoul District Prosecutors Office of four major entertainment management companies were reportedly set off by hints from insiders that bribing public and cable television producers was a normal practice in the business. The prosecutors have banned several persons from leaving the country.

In a pop culture where TV appearances link directly to commercial popularity, bribery has always been an easy option for those seeking a quicker way to cash in. The recording industry claims to have shrunk due to online music file suppliers like Soribada, but by 2000, Korea's music market exceeded 400 billion won ($320 million) ?75 percent of it Korean pop music.

Yet public investigations into allegations of illegal dealings in this enormous business usually stop at loud words followed by no action. High-profile investigations into the shady transactions between television and music business in 1990, 1995 and 1999 were unable to uncover the substance or extent of illegal practices. All three investigations ended with only petty confessions and promises of individual producers not to repeat their wrongdoings.

This time we hope the prosecutors will maintain a determination to dig out unfair and illegal practices of the TV broadcasters and the music industry. At the same time, we hope the promises of reform by the television broadcasters won't prove to be for show only. Pop-chart shows have caused enough problems, even without their slavish catering to ratings. They should be abolished and a way to regulate the excessive appearances of pop singers on entertainment programs should be devised. How long will we have to read about the shameful dealings of a food chain in the pop music world?
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