GNP officials abandon pretense of job creation to say its push for media legislation is about party interest in broadcasting content determining administration’s destiny
Industry analysts are saying the essence of the life-or-death battle between ruling and opposition parties over media-related legislation comes down to the issue of whether the oligarchical “ChoJoongDong” (Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo) is allowed to monopolize broadcasting.
Last December, the Grand National Party (GNP) proposed amendments to the Press Law and Broadcasting Law that would allow cross-ownership in newspapers and television broadcasting. The GNP had called it “economic legislation that can diversify the media market and create jobs.” Over time, however, claims that the amendments serve as “economic legislation” have lost their luster, especially since it came to light that the figure of 20,000 new jobs was inflated. Moreover, the GNP’s claim of “the more, the merrier” in promoting diversity has been countered by grave concerns about an “unbalanced diet” in a lopsided media environment dominated by conservative media outlets.
On this issue, Speaker Kim Hyong-o, who has expressed intentions of exercising his power to present the media legislation before the National Assembly, has come to confess his true feelings on this subject. In a post on his Web site last Sunday, he wrote, “This law is not directly linked with the public’s welfare.” He also wrote, “The key to the (Broadcasting Law revision) bill is how we can allow the so-called ‘ChoJoongDong’ conservative media to participate in broadcasting.”
The GNP has also been making frank admissions. On the matter of ChoJoongDong participation in broadcasting, a high-ranking party official says that this is “about the party’s interests, frankly.” The official point out, “Even if the people of this nation are participating at a high level, the destiny of administrations and political parties are determined by what kind of content the broadcasters report.”
Another lawmaker in the GNP’s pro-Lee Myung-bak faction calls the situation a “battle of a political struggle.” Kim Suh-jung, a professor in the Department of Media and Communication at SungKongHoe University, says in regards to the GNP’s perspective, “There is an element of viewing it as a kind of compensation to assist friendly newspapers with their entry into broadcasting.”
Kim Seung-su, a professor in the Journalism and Communications Division at Chonbuk National University, spoke on the rationale for the ChoJoongDong newspapers’ entrance into broadcasting by saying, “Right now, they have control of the morning news, but there are often occasions where public opinion is reversed as people turn on the evening television.” Kim also says, “When you have the newspaper controlling morning politics and the TV news controlling afternoon politics, there is a tremendous synergy effect.”
For this reason, the Democratic Party (DP) sees the fate of reformist forces as hinging on the issue of cross-ownership in newspapers and broadcasting. Chun Jung-bae, a DP lawmaker and member of the National Assembly’s Committee on Culture, Sports, Tourism, Broadcasting and Communications, says that ChoJoongDong participation in broadcasting “could become a foothold for the permanent assumption of power by conservatives.” Chun also says, “It is fine to say that there is fair play and people’s choice, but if conservatives’ control of public opinion can make fair play impossible, we will not have a democratic country.”
The GNP has proposed to the DP that newspapers and large companies be forbidden from entering terrestrial broadcasting until 2012, while they would be allowed to participate in variety and news channels before then. At first blush, this appears to represent a concession by the GNP, but a closer view shows that it is not so. Lee Chang-hyun, a communications professor at Kookmin University says, “In any event, the ChoJoongDong newspapers were never particularly interested in entering terrestrial broadcasting, which requires hundreds of billions on Won in capital.”
“Their goal is in owning reporting and variety channels, where they can get results similar to those with terrestrial broadcasting, but at a far lower cost,” Lee says.
A GNP lawmaker says, “We did not really lose anything by saying we would restrict entry into terrestrial broadcasting until 2012, and the concession was intended more for its publicity effect.”