A disheartening mud fight

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A disheartening mud fight

The debate over the broadcasting rights to the 2010 World Cup matches in South Africa is spilling bad blood among three local broadcast networks.

KBS and MBC have separately filed lawsuits against SBS, which announced last week it had won exclusive rights to broadcast the World Cup finals.

They charge SBS of backhandedly seeking the exclusive broadcast rights after earlier pledging to work as a joint consortium. SBS is preparing for counter legal action too.

Who’s right or wrong is now in the hands of the court, but viewers are frowning on the dirty fight motivated by self-interest.

In the past, heated competition to win exclusive broadcast rights has only ended up in skyrocketing broadcast fees. Amid criticism, four years ago the presidents of the three major networks signed a contract agreeing to joint broadcasts of major sports events.

It was a kind of goodwill treaty to avoid unnecessary financial hemorrhaging that only enriched international sports bodies such as the Olympics Committee and FIFA.

Under the agreement, the three networks vowed to unify contact channels to negotiate terms for media rights to the Winter and Summer Olympic Games and World Cup between 2010 and 2016, rather than acting solo.

But SBS ignored the pact and went its separate way to seek the exclusive rights to the World Cup, ultimately paying $34.5 million more than the price bid by the consortium. SBS argued that the agreement is not legally binding and a corporate agreement cannot be considered a waste of national wealth.

We do not know the exact story behind the tale, but SBS’s breach of an agreement, binding or nonbinding, is abominable. A head of a TV network is a public figure who must exercise high standards of morality, dignity and social obligation.

This disregard of the principle of business trust and the resulting mud fight is disheartening to watch.

The World Cup Games inevitably will be aired by a single network this time, but broadcasters must seriously contemplate what is in the best interest of the viewers. Excessive competition only hampers the quality of TV programs and can undermine the rights of viewers.

Competition is inevitable in a capitalist market. But there must be a mechanism to stave off a hemorrhage of national wealth and the waste of radio and TV waves to guarantee broader viewership.

As a matter of fact, TV is a public asset and belongs to the people. Sports broadcasting must be realigned to respect this principle.
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