A dangerous changeA subcommittee under the Science, ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting and Communications Committee at the National Assembly has reached a stunning agreement on a revised bill which, if passed, would force broadcasting companies to establish and operate programming committees comprised of an equal number of members from labor and management. The amendment would apply not only to public broadcasting corporations, like KBS, but also to private terrestrial, general and news channels. The revision constitutes a serious restriction on the autonomy of broadcast media and a dangerous infringement on the freedom of speech.
A programming committee has a right to fix the rules of a broadcast company. The rules on programming - similar to the management guidelines of a general company - are crucial because the nature of a channel’s content is determined in accordance with the rules.
Given this significance, programming guidelines have been mostly left to management alone. The legislature’s decision to give the privilege to form and sit on programming committees to labor equally with management is the same as forcing private companies to set up a management committee comprised of the same number of delegates from labor and management.
The main opposition Democratic Party initially pushed ahead with the novel idea under the banner of promoting fairer broadcasting standards in public broadcasting entities. But if the DP really cares about fair broadcasting, it must find a more effective way to achieve its goals with fewer side effects. Fair broadcasting can be achieved when the government appoints people to management posts who have a strict sense of fairness, and then management gathers opinions from the unions and audiences. Fair broadcasting is also possible when the press and civic groups closely monitor broadcast media. If lawmakers skip these reasonable, three-sided procedures and blindly push ahead with the egalitarian imposition on the programming committee, it would only lead to chaos.
One can hardly expect these new committees to run effectively, considering the possibility that hard-line labor unions or outside forces - including politicians - will be tempted to meddle in programming and flex their muscles.
If the same standards are applied to private broadcasting companies, it becomes a more serious problem. As private broadcasters rely on investment from the private sector, their focus is different from the public media. Private broadcasters cherish the will of their founders. In broadcasting contents, too, private media must be able to pursue profits as well as serve the public good. Just like how private companies flourish when their management rights are protected, private broadcasters need their programming rights to be protected in order to be successful. As the revision goes against our Constitution, our legislators must not pass the amendment.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 28, Page 30