Outside panel’s proper place

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Outside panel’s proper place

A public committee was launched last Friday to sift through and coordinate differences between the ruling and opposition parties on the controversial media bill.

Twenty members make up the committee, which is composed of professors, journalists, lawyers and civic group representatives recommended by the ruling and opposition parties to hold a series of hearings until June 15 specifically to debate the media-related reform bills pending in the National Assembly’s Culture and Tourism Committee.

The body was formed with the blessing of bickering lawmakers, but many are already questioning the prospects of its mission. Looking at some of the members, one cannot help wondering whether the discussions would be free of partiality and self-interest.

The hearings will be an extension of the lawmakers’ political brawl if committee members merely uphold the arguments of the parties that recommended them. We believe the committee should limit itself as an advisory board, rather than act as an authoritative council concocting changes in the media industry.

Their role should be no more than presenting productive and diverse views on the disputed issues.

Members can express their thoughts on the influence of the media bills promoted by the ruling party based on diversity of public opinion and the economy.

Those opposing the legal changes can present their thinking as to why the print media’s entry into broadcasting can hurt the media market. The naysayers have so far been against the idea of allowing newspaper owners to branch out to the broadcasting industry - despite research that show that domination in the broadcast market is more severe than in the print industry.

They will also have to explain why they insist that the media law changes will do little to help the economy.

The political parties should not slip into the sidelines to leave the messy work to the committee.

Although the idea behind the body is to coordinate public opinion, its establishment itself goes against the law.

The National Assembly cannot outsource its mandated role to study pending bills. The parities therefore should, separately, meet regularly to discuss the bills.

Once they are finished with discussions, the legislature should expedite the approval process according to procedure.

They should remember that public distrust can turn to anger if the same bickering and confrontation are repeated in the extraordinary session in June, a deadline the political parties agreed on to vote on the bills.

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