Ruling party calls out online news services

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Ruling party calls out online news services

The ruling party on Thursday made another push for its campaign to regulate news services run by major Internet portals, criticizing the cyberspace giants for aiding unethical practices of one-person news media.

“Recently, more and more one-person news media have opened up,” Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung said during the ruling party’s Supreme Council meeting.

“Such media are writing reports about companies, and portal sites are posting them without filtering them, and then [the media] are forcing these companies to place advertisements by using the Internet news articles as bait. Companies are screaming because of this practice.”

This new type of irregularity, supported by online portal sites, must be stopped, he added. “We need a mechanism so that portal sites will post news articles more prudently.”

The business community, and the advertising industry, in particular, has argued that steps must be taken to regulate rapidly expanding online media.

Four major advertising lobbies, including the Korea Advertisers Association and the Korea Federation of Advertising Associations, have already stated that they will file petitions to the National Assembly and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to improve oversight on news service by major portal sites like Daum and Naver by revising relevant laws.

They also demanded last week that the same law governing newspaper companies be applied to regulate news distribution on portal sites.

Online news media outlets have increased rapidly over recent years, and since 2014, more than 1,000 new Internet news companies have been founded. Six-thousand are currently in service - a figure 16 times higher than the 376 daily newspapers in print.

And as more online news media began circulating news, more complaints against them were filed with the Press Arbitration Commission. From 2011 until July 2015, a total of 19,136 petitions complaining about Internet news media were submitted.

Among them, 12,925 were against Internet news sites, while 6,211 were against the online news services provided by portal sites.

The arbitration petitions against Internet news articles comprise 64.2 percent of total complaints the commission received during that period.

According to the commission, over five years, it received 7.73 complaints per day pertaining to online news media, while an average of 3.71 complaints were made against portal sites each day.

Broadcasters received a daily average of 3.18 complaints, while an average of 1.84 petitions were made daily against print newspapers.

Kim’s remarks were the latest in a series of recent Saenuri Party attempts to “reform” news services run by major portal sites.

On Thursday, the National Assembly began an audit on the government and into other key state affairs, while the ruling party vowed to scrutinize the professionalism and neutrality of the country’s largest web portals, Naver and Daum.

At the audit, conducted Thursday by the Science, ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting and Communications Committee, lawmakers from the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) criticized the Saenuri Party’s plan.

“The general elections take place next year,” said NPAD Rep. You Seung-hee. “The ruling party suddenly raised this issue, and it is questionable whether they are trying to tame or to gag these portal sites.”

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism already announced in August that it will revise the enforcement decree of the law governing newspapers in order to strengthen the requirements necessary to launch an Internet newspaper.

According to the revision, at least five journalists and editors would be required to start an Internet media outlet - an increase from the current three.

The revision is expected to take effect after a yearlong grace period and will apply retrospectively to existing media.

The NPAD is concerned most online news media will disappear after the change takes effect.

BY SER MYO-JA, LEE GA-YOUNG [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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