In talks, portal sites criticized for news-editing practices

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In talks, portal sites criticized for news-editing practices

The Korean Association of Newspapers yesterday raised concerns about the news-editing practices of portal sites such as Naver, Daum and Nate and their reluctance to pay “proper [compensation for content provided].”

Amid lingering criticism over major portal sites’ dominance in the marketplace, the ruling Saenuri Party hosted talks yesterday morning in the presence of portal site operators and their business partners, the newspaper association and academics to discuss ways to “regulate the portal site market.”

The hearing follows a move by a dozen lawmakers in September to reform the portal market by revising the Fair Trade Act so they could define Naver - as well as the smaller Daum and Nate - as having a monopoly.

Lim Cheol-soo, manager of the department of planning at the Korean Association of Newspapers, argued that portal sites are assigning news items based on their own judgment as if they were news producers.

“Portals are arbitrarily aligning news items, which can be seen as an act of editing,” he said. “How dangerous it would be when a portal, not the media, played the role of a news agency?”

Hwang Geun, a professor of mass communication at Sun Moon University, attacked portal sites for “never making efforts” to offer proper compensation for the news provided by the respective media outlets. The news media supplied content at lower costs when the portals first launched services to publish content on their sites.

But the initial price level has remained the same ever since, and that pricing structure has been applied to other content on the portal sites, the professor said.

“Content providers are not receiving fair payments under the current structure,” he added.

Lee Byung-sun, managing director of Daum Communications, said the cost of content was mutually agreed upon under the economic principles of the market.

“We have the willingness and ability to develop ourselves through discussions with various parties,” he said.

He noted that placing Daum and Nate on an equal level was “not a desirable approach to propel competition in the market,” given that Naver holds a market share of more than 75 percent, while Daum has only 20 percent.

Han Jong-ho, managing director of public policies at Naver, said there should be a point of contact for every party involved in a convergent media environment, but that such a feat proves challenging given that there are more than 4,000 media outlets in Korea.

Naver has long been criticized by news agencies and the public for publishing news on its own terms. Despite news organizations’ calls for reforms, the No. 1 portal still holds serious sway.

“We are seriously deliberating how to protect the dynamic nature of the Internet and how to build fairness,” said Choi Kyoung-hwan, the Saenuri floor leader. “Strict regulations may limit the dynamics, but ignoring current issues may only create more problems later.”

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