KBS and the public good
They were designed to help public broadcasters liberate themselves from capitalist domination for the common good of all people, unlike the commercial media outlets that rely heavily on ad revenue. The term TV subscription fee is different from country to country. However, most of them are a sort of tax payment.
The reason why the electric wave is regarded as public property is because its exclusive proprietorship is not acknowledged. Put simply, I cannot prevent others from watching TV, even if I watch a specific TV program.
In this regard, broadcasters mus be allocated a specific broadcasting frequency by the government and obtain a license to run a broadcasting business.
Commercial broadcasters also use the electric wave, a public property; however, it is a wholly different story. The TV subscription fee provides a physical basis to support the idea that public broadcasting falls under the concept of public property for the common good of all people.
There have been controversies over the TV subscription fee system.
In the mid 1980s, civic groups refused to pay the TV subscription fee. They protested against officially regulated programs aired by KBS. In 2004-2005, there was a strong civil rights movement against NHK’s subscription fee. The major culprit was an NHK staff member who embezzled public funds. In the early 2000s, there was controversy in Europe over the subscription fee. A sharp decline in the quality of programs aired by public broadcasters and reckless management were the root causes of public hostility toward public broadcasters. People raised a more fundamental question in France ― whether they should pay the subscription fee.
After serious arguments, France decided to allow the subscription fee as a national tax in 2004. President Sarkozy unveiled his plan this year that public broadcasters ― France 2 and France 3 ― will no longer air commercial advertising.
In Korea, the Constitutional Court ruled on Feb. 29 that it is constitutional for KBS to collect the subscription fee. It acknowledged the legal status of subscription fees as a “public burden to promote the broadcasting of public programs” as insisted upon by KBS, which swiftly reported the court ruling.
The core issue, however, is that KBS should turn its attention to the meaning of “protection of public good,” which the Constitutional Court’s recent ruling implied.
The writer is a deputy culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Yang Sung-hee [firstname.lastname@example.org]