[VIEWPOINT]A flawed union from the beginning

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[VIEWPOINT]A flawed union from the beginning

A draft of a bill that would combine two different branches of the government ― the broadcasting and communications agencies ― into one unit has been presented by the Committee for the Promotion of the Integration of Broadcasting and Communication. But the bill has only touched off endless controversy and conflict.
The Korean Broadcasting Commission, which has taken part in preparing the plan to establish the integrated organization, has opposed the draft bill because it says the plan does not guarantee the independence and neutrality of broadcasters. The scope of opposition is wide, including academics, members of opposition parties and civic groups.
The committee said the problems with the current system are the reason an integrated organization is needed.
But the committee has not gotten public approval for their plan because they are only emphasizing administrative convenience and a better business environment.
The committee has promised to establish a future-oriented and effective system that integrates the broadcasting and communication agencies. The committee said the proposed bill considers all of the political, economic, social and cultural realities of Korea.
However, there are many doubts as to whether the bill will be judged in that way.
Doubters say the new organization would have elements of both a representative system, to guarantee the independence of broadcasting, and a hierarchical system, to promote the development of both broadcasting and communication. But it is always awkward to combine two families under one roof.
It is said that the new commission will consist of two sides; the hierarchy system, under which the chairman, with the rank of a cabinet minister, and the deputy chairman, with the rank of vice minister, will make decisions about the management while the representative system will allow all of the commissioners to participate equally in the decision-making process. The question is whether it will work.
People say the new organization will not function smoothly because it has failed to achieve chemical integration of the two through the practical coordination of their functions.
The integrated commission will be a large administration, with a workforce of 600 to 700 employees. Despite the world trend toward easing regulations, if a mammoth organization like this is born, it will certainly restrain competition, which is one of the main reasons for the integration of the broadcasting and communication agencies.
At a time when proper allocation of regulation and promotional functions is needed, the establishment of an integrated commission could be seen as an antiquated idea.
The five commissioners on the newly integrated agency are all supposed to be appointed by the president.
Clear guidelines need to be set forth, therefore, as to how the National Assembly can intervene in the process of the nomination and appointments of commissioners.
Most of all, the government needs to make it clear how the broadcasting and communication agencies will be integrated. We need to change our way of thinking, to see both broadcasting and communication as one industry.
Therefore, the new commission should develop a policy that emphasizes support and encourage growth of the broadcasting and communication industries.
In the broadcasting field, political independence and the ability to do fair reporting are absolute values that must be preserved. We need to discuss whether a mammoth integrated organization can promote two industries at the same time, while keeping broadcasters independent.
As an alternative, perhaps we can guarantee fairness and independence for broadcasters and make the public broadcasting sector a politically uncontaminated area by establishing a Public Broadcasting Commission.
In addition, the government should form a support system under which commercial broadcasting, integrated news services and communications industries can grow and develop with fair competition.
Furthermore, it is necessary to discuss long-term reform measures that can solve conflicts between the government branches in charge of content promotion.
I hope that the introduction of this draft bill is just the beginning of the debate, and that it leads to a future-oriented and efficient restructuring plan.

*The writer is a professor of mass communication at Sookmyung Women’s University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Park Chun-il
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