Korean lawmakers battle, OK media reforms

At least one legislator injured in brawl over controversial bills

SEOUL -- Hundreds of competing lawmakers screamed and wrestled in South Korea's parliament Wednesday as a rivalry over contentious media reform bills descended into a brawl that sent at least one to a hospital.

Lawmakers from the ruling Grand National Party occupied the speaker's podium in a bid to quickly pass the bills aimed at easing restrictions on ownership of television networks. Opposition parties responded by stacking up furniture to block ruling party members from entering the main hall of the National Assembly.

Despite the opposition lawmakers' attempt, the parliament did succeed in passing the controversial bills, allowing Korean newspapers and large businesses to own stakes in broadcasting stations.

The minority parties strongly opposed the proposed media reforms, claiming the move is a ploy by the government of President Lee Myung-bak to get more sympathetic media coverage by allowing large conservative newspapers to get into the broadcasting business.

Under the new law, local newspapers and private companies will be allowed to own up to 10% of TV stations, 30% of general programming and 30% of exclusive news channels.

"The law opened up a way for major newspapers to advance into the broadcasting business, but a system to diversify public opinion is still very weak," Choi Young-jae, a professor of Mass Communication and Information at Hallym University, was quoted in an interview with Yonhap News Agency, a local wire service. "There's also a possibility for overcompetition and market chaos if too many all-news channels are set up at the same time, just like what we've seen in the beginning phase of mobile (service) companies."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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