[EDITORIALS]KBS fee needs a changeAn organization with the tentative name “Center for Filing a Lawsuit on the Unconstitutionality of the KBS Viewers’ Fee” was launched yesterday, and has begun collecting the names of people volunteering to be plaintiffs in such a legal action. The group plans to file suit with the Constitutional Court by the end of June. Considering the fact that enormous public support was mustered by a movement to end the viewers’ fee during the mid-1980s, under the Chun Doo Hwan regime, this movement could have considerable impact.
As a public broadcaster, about 40 percent of KBS’s budget is covered by viewers’ fees. Part of that money goes toward supporting the Education Broadcasting Station (EBS). In 1999, the Constitutional Court ruled that the KBS viewers’ fee was not unconstitutional, because it amounted to a special contribution to the financing of public broadcasting. The reason the issue is being raised again is that KBS has failed in its duty as a public broadcaster.
Fair reporting and the pursuit of the public interest form the axis of public broadcasting. But KBS’s image as a public broadcaster has been in decline because of the continuous criticism it has received for biased reporting, an overflow of low-quality programs, lax management and a dearth of ethical standards among its employees. Despite all this, there has scarcely been a sign that KBS has reflected upon itself. This is why people are saying that people who don’t watch KBS shouldn’t have to pay the viewers’ fee.
Moreover, because the fee is combined with the electric bill, viewers have no choice but to pay it, or their power will be cut off. Because of this, viewers’ dissatisfaction never ends: shops without a TV have to pay the same amount as shops that have one; owners of black-and-white sets pay as much as people with color sets; viewers strapped for funds who would like to pay either the viewers’ fee or the electric bill on time can’t do so, and instead are charged late fees on both.
To make a legitimate argument in favor of the viewers’ fee, KBS must be faithful to its principles. It is urgent that it establish its independence from the government by meeting its duties as a public broadcaster. It must also devise a collection system that’s more convenient for viewers, instead of clinging to an expedient one under the guise of efficiency.