Undoing Chun’s terrible legacy

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Undoing Chun’s terrible legacy

New broadcasting station JTBC reported that former President Chun Doo Hwan regretted his 1980 decision to merge newspaper and broadcasting organizations. TBC - Tongyang Broadcasting Company - had been shut down as a part of the plan under his military government.

It is the first time the general-turned-president expressed regret over his decision. Lee Won-hong, culture and information minister who served under Chun, said his former boss was sorry that he did not undo the damage he caused to the nation’s media broadcasting industry before he stepped down.

On Nov. 12, 1980, soon after the deadly and controversial military clampdown on the democracy movement in Gwangju, presidents and publishers of media companies were summoned to the security command headquarters.

In the presence of armed soldiers, they had to sign contracts to close down newspaper or broadcasting organizations. As a result, 64 media companies, including TBC, were massacred under the security law.

The belated expression of regret by the orchestrator behind the act to control the media cannot make up for the immense losses. The fallout from the illegal act continues today. The military regime banned co-ownership of newspaper and broadcasting organizations for effective media control.

It took three decades to undo the wrong and revise the broadcasting and newspaper law in 2009. The three terrestrial broadcasters had enjoyed near-monopoly power on the air thanks to the media legacy from the military regime.

New general broadcasting stations went on air this week, but they are heavily attacked by the industry’s old guard. Some even cite the same logic by the military regime to defend their power. But new channels will help diversify viewership and broaden the media industry.

We live in an era when broadcasting and communications are becoming one and digital devices like smartphones and Internet tablets are replacing the traditional media platforms like newspapers and television for information source and entertainment.

The audience knows better. The three terrestrial television networks accounted for 76 percent of viewership in newspapers and broadcasting combined last year. They also accounted for around 75 percent of broadcasting advertisements. With such an advantageous edge, they should welcome competition for the public interest.

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