Gov't Planning Media Reforms to Spur Competition

    September 05, 2008 09:12

    The government plans to ease regulations on media ownership to promote investment and increase competitiveness. The Korea Communications Commission in a policy report to Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday said it may ease the ban that prohibits conglomerates from owning a media company, and on cross-media ownership that prevents newspaper companies from owning terrestrial and cable TV stations.

    It will also review ways to stimulate competition in mobile communications field by allowing voice communications in WiBro, the wireless Internet service or, in other words, legalizing Internet telephony.

    There have been several calls to scrap the cross-ownership ban, but this is the first time the government has officially flagged a plan to ease the regulation. Under the current media law, newspapers cannot own a TV station but broadcasters are allowed to own a newspaper.

    President Lee Myung-bak on Thursday said Korea “should drastically relax regulations on the broadcasting and telecom industry to create an environment where a world-class media group with a competitive edge in the global market can be born.” Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Lee Dong-kwan told reporters there was consensus “that it is better to go with one state-run network and multiple private-owned network, as the (ruling) Grand National Party has insisted, rather than the current situation where there is one privately owned and multiple state-owned companies.”

    That marks a change in the government’s position. Major TV stations MBC, KBS1, KBS2 and YTN are all owned by the state. Until Thursday, the government had been saying there was no immediate plan to privatize MBC, KBS2 and YTN. But the spokesman added concrete discussion on how to privatize the stations has not started yet.

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