[EDITORIALS]Not a pretty picture

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[EDITORIALS]Not a pretty picture

KBS 2, a public broadcasting channel, has lagged behind SBS, a commercial channel, in its service for the public good. In a Public Service Index for the second half of last year, KBS 2 received 67.7 points out of 100, compared with 69 points for SBS and 69.4 for MBC, another state-run station. The index was developed jointly by KBS and the Korean Society for Journalism and Communication Studies in 1997 to assess local television programs' contributions to the public good. The low showing justifies concerns raised continually by audience groups and academics that KBS 2 is becoming too commercialized.

We are particularly concerned that the channel is increasingly hurting the public good as time goes on. Three broadcasting channels -- KBS 1, MBC and SBS -- saw their PSI scores rise in the second half of 2001 from the first, while KBS 2's showing deteriorated. Among 255 programs appearing on the four major broadcast channels, KBS 2 had the most programs in the bottom 15 percent in terms of PSI scores. It also had the least programs among the top-30 programs. The result shows that KBS 2 played a major role in lowering the quality of television.

Viewing fees account for almost 90 percent of revenues for Britain's BBC and more than 70 percent of that of Japan's NHK. By comparison, viewing fees represent merely 40 percent of KBS's income, and the company depends on KBS 2 for advertising revenues.

Considering that MBC and SBS, which showed higher PSI scores than KBS 2, are dependent upon advertising income for 100 percent of their revenues, KBS's management and production staff deserve criticism for being obsessed with high audience ratings, putting its public role on the back burner. KBS 2 should drastically cut the ratio of low-quality entertainment programs and provide audiences with more programs about arts and Korea's traditional culture to satisfy viewers' cultural thirst and enhance our society's cultural level in general.

The time has come for the government to take measures to improve KBS 2's operation by either privatizing the company to raise funds or by merging it with EBS, the state-run education channel.

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