[EDITORIALS]Burn house to kill a bedbugThe Regulatory Reform Commission on Friday adopted the Fair Trade Commission’s draft revision of the code of conduct for newspapers. As a result, the power to regulate unfair business practices by newspapers is transferred from the Korea Newspapers Association to the government. The new code scraps the commission’s earlier draft that respected the association’s right to address unfair business practices and puts the regulatory power exclusively in the hands of the Fair Trade Commission.
As the newspaper association stated, newspaper companies bear significant blame for the controversy over whether it should be self-regulating under voluntary rules. Even granting that competition among newspaper companies overheated as the age of new media dawned, it is embarrassing that newspaper companies that hold truth and freedom dear have failed to regulate themselves.
But it is more dangerous for the government to take advantage of this failure and intervene directly in the newspaper market. The government, holding sticks, will be tempted to bend newspapers to its wishes rather than engage in routine fair-trade activities. President Roh Moo-hyun has openly expressed hostility toward certain newspaper companies, posing an even greater danger. In a recent TV appearance, Mr. Roh said that only newspapers enjoy privileges from the Fair Trade Act with no legal basis. At a workshop, he said newspapers criticize him unfairly and urged officials to prevent the government and the press forming a power cartel. We sincerely hope that government intervention in the newspaper market will not turn into an overture for outright control of the press. We will fight vigorously against the government if the code of conduct is misused.
Newspaper firms should unite around the Korea Newspapers Association and give no cause for government intervention. That the association’s new leadership is successfully leading a number of excessively competitive companies toward self-regulation is fortunate. The Fair Trade Commission should cooperate with the newspaper association if it is to avoid “burning the house to capture a bedbug.”