[VIEWPOINT]Satellite Broadcasting a TV ConcernSatellite broadcasting by television won't begin until March 2002, but already several controversial areas are bringing questions. The crux of the questions concern the balance of interests between local television stations and Sky Life, the corporation in charge of satellite broadcasting. Opponents say that if Sky Life is allowed to retransmit the programs of the major over-the-air TV stations, such as MBC and SBS, it would damage local TV stations, which depend greatly on the major TV stations for programs.
The primary goals of satellite broadcasting are to widen the consumer's choices and to secure a stable market-entry system in the long run. The local TV stations, however, oppose satellite broadcasting because they are afraid of losing advertising due to the overwhelming dominance of the new system. Local stations see satellite broadcasting as a threat to their stability.
Cable broadcasters are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the local TV stations in defending their basic rights to survive. The Korean Broadcasting Commis-sion announced Nov. 19 that Sky Life may retransmit the programs of MBC and SBS only to metropolitan areas for two years, after which it may extend the retransmission nationwide.
Cable broadcasters are allowed to transmit local television channels if the channels' locally produced content exceeds 50 percent of all programs. But cable broadcasters can transmit Kyung-in Broadcasting only within Gyeonggi province.
The local broadcasters Association is protesting the restrictions. Kyung-in Broadcasting, whose programming is 100 percent locally produced, said that it would take legal action against a decision it called discriminatory. Suspicions have been raised whether a two-year moratorium will give the local TV stations enough time to strengthen their competitiveness and independence. Would it also be possible to monitor every local station if the retransmission is limited to metropolitan areas? Kyung-in Broadcasting's retransmission already covers all of Korea. Gangseo-gu, Seoul, is already a legally approved sector in which Kyung-in can be broadcast via cable.
Protecting the survival of the local media is definitely important, but securing a stable entry of satellite broadcasting is just as important in the interests of viewers.
A full-scale shift of the broadcasting environment is imperative to cope with the changing situation. Maintaining a couple of monopolistic broadcasting stations and letting them enjoy their hegemonic status as Korea used to do should no longer be allowed, especially in the transitional period that Korea is now facing. Finding the compromise between the public interest in broadcasting and the commercial pursuit of profits is important in determining policies to develop broadcasting.
A broadcasting policy in the multimedia, multichannel era should reflect the development, growth and friendly mutual balance between broadcasting companies. An equilibrium imbalance due to politics or monopoly should no longer be permissible in the future. To secure the interest of the recipients or the viewers, the policy should change the media environment to provide abundant cultural information and increase the overall social benefit by promoting fair competition among media. Quality should be emphasized more than quantity. The media, therefore, should act as a benign mediator among people and propel the benefits of the viewers.
The Korean media policy, instead of having been a sound and detailed policy planned by the blueprint, was an outcome of fleeting and highly volatile provisions, which were easily bent by political and other major economic influences.
The Korean Broadcasting Commission must have taken great pains in arbitrating the preferences of each media, and it appears that the government is starting to take appropriate measures, such as establishing a "Committee for Development for Local Media" and more.
How to ease the grievances of the local broadcasters, cable channels and Kyung-in Broadcasting remains unclear. One solution would be allocating a nation-wide channel for local broadcasters, like a "super station," and a channel specializing in broadcasting programs of independent produtions.
Quarreling over the period of limiting the retransmission by satellite broadcasting is useless at the moment. Instead we demand that the government take appropriate steps to clarify the status and relations of different broadcasting media and produce a future-oriented broadcasting policy that will present a long-term vision for a mutimedia, mutichannel and digitalized broadcasting era.
The writer is a professor of Kyung-hee university.
by Choi Chung-ung