[Outlook]IPTV and public good

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[Outlook]IPTV and public good

The National Assembly passed a bill on Internet protocol television, or IPTV, on Dec. 28 at the end of 2007.
IPTV services offer information, video clips and TV programs via the Internet. A computer monitor is used as a TV screen and a mouse as a remote control.
The bill on IPTV contained legal flaws so it had been languishing in the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee. After long and hard work, the IPTV bill was passed so now consumers will have one more media choice.
In the industry, businesses related to IPTV will boom and develop to global standards.
A new stage has opened for the market of the media and telecommunications combined.
However, in the process of establishing the IPTV law, irregularities took place and principles were not abided by. This will likely happen again when ordinances and regulations related to the IPTV law are created.
The IPTV bill states that the market will be open, but that is not good enough. The bill simply says that companies that do not own broadband access can offer IPTV services. Conflicts will likely erupt over concrete standards for who will be described as providing broadband access.
Companies with conflicting interests will confront one another over how to set fees for using broadband.
There are details to be settled in the interest of consumers. Different participants will have different opinions on details, for instance, on guaranteeing service quality and standardizing technology.
Because IPTV is to be introduced, there will be the necessity of revising the current law on broadcasting, which regulates the market share of cable TV broadcasters and the areas in which they can provide service.
IPTV’s influence will go beyond the media market. IPTV will change viewers’ attitude toward the media and the formation and composition of related businesses. Therefore, it is important to resolve difficult issues smoothly in the process of drawing up ordinances so as to reduce the negative and maximize the positive side effects from the introduction of IPTV.
To do so, two principles must be followed.
First, the laws on telecommunications and media are focused on networks, but the focus should be moved to services and content. The existing law on telecommunications categorizes operators according to their type of network access. Particularly, the law is focused on supplying hardware units. As a result, the content industry has not been nurtured.
If this persists, viewers won’t notice any difference between IPTV and digital cable TV. This being the case, viewers are more likely to look at service fees than the quality of content when choosing the means of media delivery.
Even if operators charge fees for programs, the fees will likely be very low. This will prevent the content industry from developing further, and viewers won’t have as many choices as they could have.
It will be possible for a monopoly to control the media market, according to a company’s capital and broadband dominance.
For IPTV to survive in the market, companies must be able to earn profits and the scale of the total economy must be large.
However, public good should not be sacrificed in the process. The public good is not the concern of public TV stations alone. Operators should not consider public good an obstacle to their business.
All media outlets must pursue public good just as they pursue accuracy and fairness of information, reliable quality and practical services.
In the process of establishing the law on IPTV, the public good was often overlooked.
Some see the public good as being completely separate from profitability, and that they are conflicting factors.
But this is not right.
Because IPTV is to be provided to the masses, it should put public good before profitability.
Most of all, no one can disagree that IPTV means a new media environment.

*The writer is a professor of media engineering at Seoul National University of Technology. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Choi Seung-jhin
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