[EDITORIALS]Scrap Attempts to Regulate the Press

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[EDITORIALS]Scrap Attempts to Regulate the Press

The Fair Trade Commission's plan to resurrect regulations on unfair business practices by newspaper companies was challenged Monday by the presidential Regulatory Reform Committee. The fact that even a presidential advisory committee whose members include cabinet ministers opposed the idea shows how far-fetched the plan was. Private members of the committee have reportedly raised questions why the government anti-trust body suddenly rushed to revive the regulations when nothing has changed since they were abolished two years ago. This clearly indicates that the intention and the process of reviving the regulations by the commission are indeed illegal and not transparent.

As the members of the Regulatory Reform Committee pointed out, the existing fair trade laws include enough teeth to regulate unfair business practices in all industries. The commission's attempt to single out the newspaper industry for shackles is not only unfair but unjustified.

The Fair Trade Commission explained that its newly proposed draft regulation is a "guideline tailored for the newspaper market, and it is merely an adjusted version of the existing fair trading laws with some detailed illustrations." By the same token, does this mean that the commission plans to draw up separate regulations for every market where competition exists, no matter whether it is media, food, mobile phones, the Internet or the electronic goods industry? The commission's plan to limit the number of free papers to 10 percent of papers sold in the market will only result in enforcing an oligopoly in the market despite its intention. Newspaper firms have already set up voluntary regulations to scrap the practice of giving away free gifts and are trying to abide by them.

A case where the government attempted to enforce regulations about the number of papers sold in the market, advertisement rates or even market share is hard to find in other industrialized countries. The commission's plans to impose regulations on advertisement rates or the number of papers sold will not, as the Regulatory Reform Committee pointed out, solve the current problems, since only an implementation of a trustworthy Audit Bureau of Circulation can resolve it. The commission also said it will draw up a final version of the regulations after it gathered public opinion. That was just lip service, considering that the Korea Newspaper Association's opinions were not reflected at all. We can see where the government is eventually headed. The hasty attempt by the Fair Trade Commission to set up regulations illogical enough to be rejected by the presidential Regulatory Reform Committee, at the same time that intensive investigations of newspaper firms by the National Tax Service goes on, raises fears of hidden intentions.

The Fair Trade Commission said it will submit a revised version of regulations to the reform committee at the beginning of next month. No matter what the revision or its reception will be, the regulation plan had already lost legitimacy. If the commission forces through the regulations, it will only prove that the plan is a government attempt to suppress the press. The plan is so excessive that it contains clauses that violate the Constitution, and it is not likely that the plan can be effective even if it is enacted; the Fair Trade Commission should discard it. The impression that the Fair Trade Commission is being abused for "non-economic purposes" hurts the commission and the economy. It is not too late. We hope the Fair Trade Commission goes back to its legitimate duties and concentrates on promoting a market economy and fair trade.
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