Questions on Satellite Broadcasting

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Questions on Satellite Broadcasting

On Tuesday, the Broadcasting Commission awarded a satellite business license to the Korea Digital Satellite Broadcasting (KDB), a consortium of Korea Telecom and three major airwave television companies, ending the lengthy debate of who is to win the race, which went on between 5 and 10 years, depending on the companies.

Despite the broadcasting authorities'' explanation that the maximum level of fairness, objectivity and transparency was maintained in the deliberation process, some complaints are bound to surface in the wake of the cutthroat competition between the two consortiums.

In this respect, it is a fortunate decision on the part of the broadcasting authorities to recommend that human, material and technological resources of the losing contender be utilized for the satellite broadcasting business as much as possible.

The remaining question is whether the KDB, which earned the business rights through many ups and downs, will be able to carry out the second broadcasting revolution, summed up in such words as digital, multi-channels, interactive television and long-distance.

However, there are some points that invite our concern. For starters, the blueprint proposed by the KDB seems to be painted in an overly rosy color. This consortium plans to launch commercial business as early as October next year, secure 2 million subscribers within four years and record net profits from the fifth year. This group literally appears to view satellite broadcasting as a golden-egg laying goose.

To achieve these goals, 160 participants in the KDB intend to invest 2.4 trillion won ($2 billion) by 2005. We believe it is necessary at this point to stop and think whether such a scenario is realistic with another economic crisis looming.

Another problem is how to secure "content." The KDB hopes to begin with 74 channels and increase them to 114 by 2005. Will it be possible to have a variety of materials to fill them all? The KDB, in which three airwave television channels participate, might have obtained a good mark during the deliberation for this reason, but it is far from sufficient.

The KDB has revealed that it plans to build a "content" center pouring in 60 billion won, but it is liable to produce low-quality, sloppy materials. What is needed is a measure to extend support to independent producers so that they can produce television programs effectively and systematically.

Satellite television foreshadows a broadcasting climate change as revolutionary as the transformation from black-and-white television to color television. Furthermore, it is likely to bring about the effect of creating added values in the overall economy.

That was why the government embarked on the discussion of introducing satellite broadcasting in the early 1990s, but the lack of preparations and the absence of principles forced Korea to end up wasting time and money with repeated trials and errors.

The case in point is the two satellites - Mugunghwa 1 and Mugunghwa 2, idly orbiting space and wasting billions of won every year. The Broadcasting Commission should be fully prepared for an early transplantation of satellite television and its successful operation, so that it won''t follow the footsteps of the government''s policy failure.

by Song Chin-hyok

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