Crisis in our midstToday is the 53rd anniversary of the JoongAng Ilbo. Though we are pleased to celebrate the occasion, we are also reminded of the troubled times in which this event is occurring.
The newspaper industry is fraught with a sense of unrest. It is in the grip of a chronic depression, which has been exacerbated by the global economic meltdown. With more customers preferring to get their news online for free and increasingly reluctant to purchase subscriptions, newspaper companies in most countries are facing severe management difficulties.
Most newspaper companies are trying to resolve the crisis in their midst with desperate efforts to restructure. However, it is already beyond the capacity of most to turn the tide by curtailing expenses. Against this backdrop, many are insisting that the government and the public be at the forefront of efforts to rescue newspapers in trouble. We agree.
Advanced countries are taking action because they see newspapers as vital to maintaining freedom of speech and democracy.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled a series of plans to promote the print media at a New Year’s press conference, including doubling the amount of advertising the government does in newspapers.
The United States is considering a bill that would allow newspapers to merge with broadcasting companies. In addition, U.S. senators have proposed increasing government support for newspapers in late March.
In Korea, what is needed is policy that offers financial support to the newspaper industry. Currently, there is a bill on the table that would undermine the global competitiveness of the nation’s media. It should be amended by all means necessary when the National Assembly opens in June so as to remove any barriers between different types of media.
It is of great importance to devise a policy to increase newspaper readership. To this end, the United States passed a law to promote reading in 1998. Even Japan, ranked first in the world with the highest newspaper circulation per 1,000 adults, devised its Promoting Letters and Printing Culture Act in 2006 and is encouraging people to read more printed media.
Our Reading Culture Promotion Act has yet to produce any concrete results. One solution would be for the government to subsidize the free distribution of newspapers to middle and high schools nationwide, via the national treasury or the newspaper development fund.
Doing so would support our media industry and make a huge contribution toward encouraging young people to get into the habit of reading newspapers.
It would also contribute to maintaining our democracy via a press that is truly free.
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