[EDITORIALS]A tool of the administration?It was revealed that the Fair Trade Commission sent a document related to the government’s attempt to “touch up the press” to the office of a ruling-party lawmaker. It includes not only the result of the antitrust agency’s investigation into newspaper companies but also opinions on future changes in the newspaper market and even an analysis of the slant of certain newspapers.
The Fair Trade Commission explained that it was “not an official document but a document that an official sent personally,” but that explanation is not persuasive. The substance of the document is vast and elaborate. In addition, the document includes political analysis and opinions. So, it is difficult to regard the document as a private work not ordered by higher-ups. The antitrust agency should satisfactorily explain why it prepared such a document and sent it to the manager of the ruling party’s special committee for press reform.
First of all, the Fair Trade Commission should disclose why it analyzed the slants of newspapers, which is not the agency’s proper job, and sent the analysis to the governing party. In the document, the antitrust agency also presented plans to restrict newspaper companies’ provision of free newspapers and gifts and then forecasted which newspapers would survive if the plan took effect.
In addition, regarding the time for a new investigation into the newspapers, the agency proposed that “November is more proper than September,” and presented foreign examples of restrictions on shareholdings and the market shares of the media. But the “examples” were different from the facts. So, why did the agency send such erroneous materials? It means that the agency has decided to serve the ruling Uri Party like a tool in promoting a bill related to press reform in the upcoming regular session of the National Assembly.
The Roh Moo-hyun administration is attempting to shackle certain newspapers under the name of “press reform.” Most of the procedures were disclosed in the document.
It is regrettable that the commission, the stronghold of a market economy, is being abused in such a political manner. Under the Kim Dae-jung administration, the agency revived press regulations and imposed 24 billion won ($20.6 million) in penalties on the media, but cancelled it late in the administration. Does the agency want to repeat such an experience?