The mass media are important and influential aspects of the modern social life in all the developed countries. The number of publications, newspapers, television channels, and the Internet news resources is constantly increasing. In spite of the fact that a lot of mass media are privately owned, the role of the governments in the development of the countries’ media is significant. Information remains to be one of the most important products in the everyday social life.
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As a result, it is possible to speak about the interdependence of the mass media and politics or states’ control. Publications and broadcasting materials affect the social vision and discussions of the political events, and governments, in their turn, can control and regulate the mass media significantly. That is why, the question of regulation and control is the key one regarding the mass media system in any country.
To understand the specific features of the media control and regulation in the Asian countries, it is important to compare the approaches to the process in Japan and South Korea, paying much attention to the possible similarities and differences in realising the necessary regulation. Although the media control and regulation policies in Japan and South Korea are based on certain cultural and political aspects which contribute to determining similarities between these two countries, the level of the governmental involvement into the process is different.
The mass media control and regulation is realised with the help of certain laws, procedures, and rules which are developed by the governments or special administrations in order to guide the mass media and protect the state and public interests. Regulation measures are usually used toward press, television media, radio, and Internet to promote the definite market situation and avoid or support the expansion of the foreign media into the internal market of the certain country (Morris & Waisbord, 2001).
Control and regulation can be presented in the form of censorship, providing the definite limits for broadcasting and for owning mass media companies (Bertrand, 2003). Although regulation and control procedures can be discussed as restricting the freedoms of speech in the democratic societies, these measures are considered as necessary to protect the public interests and form the effective information society in a certain country.
On the contrary, regulations and rules support the necessary diversity and can contribute to preventing the concentration of the media control in the hands of the authorities pursuing only political interests (Hoffman-Riem, 1996). Thus, the question of the media control regarding the relations between the mass media and politics as well as society is rather controversial, and all the above-mentioned issues are also associated with the situations in Japan and South Korea.
Today, the most influential mass media in Japan are newspapers, governmental and commercial television channels, and the Internet. Furthermore, the majority of the population prefers to read and watch news as the source of information. That is why, the mass media can be discussed as the influential ways to control the public’s vision of the social and political situation in the country (McCargo, 2003). This idea is the most challenging aspect of the media control discussion.
There were situations in the history of the Japanese mass media when certain parties controlled television channels and newspapers to promote their views to the public (Freeman, 2000). The problem developed because of the ineffective policy regarding the private television companies. Today, the situation is different, and it is regulated in relation to the laws and efforts of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.
The similar problems were associated with the public television broadcasters in South Korea. During a long period of time, KBS was greatly influenced by the authorities, and it responded to the political and ideological goals of the certain political force in the country (Savada & Shaw, 1997). On the one hand, the media control in the twentieth century was associated with meeting the political purposes of the certain parties.
On the other hand, the idea of national security and protection of the public’s interest was proclaimed by the authorities working out the limiting rules and regulations. The situation was changed with appearance of commercial and rather independent broadcasters. The positive changes were also observed in the sphere of the print media when the Newspapers Law and Media-Mediation Law were revised in 2005 (Sa, 2009).
The Japanese media control and regulation procedures are oriented toward protecting the diversity of speech and guaranteeing the stability of the media system in the country. NHK is the main autonomous public television channel in Japan which is effectively regulated with references to the broadcasting laws today. NHK is a single broadcaster in the country which has the specific status, and it cannot be compared with Japanese commercial television companies (Rohn, 2009).
According to the rules developed by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the content of NHK news and analytical programmes should be politically neutral in order to avoid controversies and affecting the public’s opinion on the problem (Krauss, 2000). Furthermore, there are strict laws discussing rights of the owners of television companies in Japan. To control the neutrality of press and television, the laws limit the process of owning the mass media conglomerates by the private companies and corporations which are not connected with the sphere of the mass media (Taniguchi, 2007).
It is necessary to note that the history of the media control and regulation policies in Japan is longer in comparison with the situation in South Korea, and this difference depends on the historic progress of the countries. During a long period of time, the government had an extreme impact on the media in Japan developing the regulation policies for controlling print media before the progress of television. In South Korea, these processes fell behind (Sriramesh, 2003). However, it is important to focus on the effects of these trends. The Japanese media were more controlled in the past when the South Korean media are highly controlled today.
The key similarity in relation to the media control and regulation process in Japan and South Korea also depends on the aspects of the countries’ history and culture. It is important to note that the combination of Confucianism and Western traditions influences the development of the mass media in the two countries significantly. As a result, the laws and procedures associated with the media are based on the necessity to provide the effective governmental control as the fundament of the Confucian tradition and to guarantee following the democratic rights and freedoms regarding the Western pattern of the mass communication (Ahmadjian, 2001).
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The particular features of the South Korean media regulation policies are the focus on limiting the impact of the foreign media and the presence of many administrations to provide the regulation procedures. The problem is in the fact that the level of the political impact on the media in the country is still high, and measures to decrease the influence and contribute to the diversity are connected with developing such new media as satellite resources and Internet. However, it is more difficult to work out procedures and laws to control these media which are positioned as independent (Carroll, 2010). As a result, there is the conflict between the developed laws to provide the media control and interests of the authorities in the process.
Thus, the content and specifics of daily newspapers and weekly magazines are not regulated by the South Korean ministries as intensively as the broadcasting media. There are several governmental regulators which provide laws and rules in relation to different aspects of the mass media functioning and development (Kim, 2007). That is why, the impact of bureaucracy on the media increases, and it is rather problematic to follow the ideals of democratic societies and free of speech which unlimited according to the certain details of the regulation policies.
The proposed laws and limitations are developed to respond to the needs of the government. Thus, politics is involved in the process directly (Kwak, 2012). From this point, the situation in Japan is more preferable for evolving the politically independent media because only the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications is responsible for providing the laws and controlling procedures which are oriented toward stimulating the media diversity and presenting the minimal governmental impact on the media (Taniguchi, 2007).
Diversity in broadcasting media is observed with references to the fact that today commercial media play an important role in the whole media system, and opinions of the business representatives are taken into consideration while discussing the new policies.
Nevertheless, print media remain to be minimally affected by the governments’ policies in relation to both the countries. Press responds to the public interest most appropriately in Japan and South Korea because the authorities’ activities to regulate and control mass media are predominantly oriented to broadcasting media. That is why, Japanese and South Korean journalists writing for magazines and newspapers are less effected by the issues of censorship and governmental control in comparison with television journalists.
In spite of the idea of free speech and impossibility to control contents directly, television journalists are limited in the frames possible for the definite programmes and channels. The political control of the press in Japan and South Korea was significant during the twentieth century (Bertrand, 2003). Nowadays, the situation is more advantageous for journalists because of following the Western democratic patterns implemented in the mass media.
Having compared the specifics of the media control and regulation in Japan and South Korea, it is possible to state that the media systems in both the countries were significantly influenced by the interests of the governmental authorities during the twentieth century. Today, the situation is different, and the reformed laws which control the media in Japan and South Korea are focused on more democratic principles.
It is also possible to observe the difference in approaches of the countries’ ministries to regulating the commercial broadcasting companies and public broadcasting networks. Thus, the media regulation procedures can be discussed as more limiting in South Korea where the role of politics is still significant for the development of the media system.
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