KCC favors expansion of current broadcasters

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KCC favors expansion of current broadcasters

Korea’s broadcast authority yesterday said current terrestrial broadcasters should be allowed to increase the number of their television channels, dealing a blow to cable television and other media companies that want to operate general-interest channels.

The Korea Communications Commission, the country’s broadcasting regulator, included the proposal in its briefing to President Lee Myung-bak about its operational plan for next year. It also suggested relaxing rules on advertising on terrestrial broadcasters.

The KCC said it would prepare a measure in the first half of 2011 to introduce multimode service for terrestrial broadcasters, which would allow them to air multiple digital channels using advanced technology.

Introduction of the service will effectively increase the number of channels operated by the terrestrial broadcasters, which include KBS, MBC and SBS. For example, the Korea Broadcasting System could add new channels to its current lineup of KBS1 and KBS2.

The proposal came as the KCC is in the final stages of deciding by end of the month whether to issue broadcasting licenses for general-interest channels on cable television to media companies, including the nation’s leading newspaper groups.

The KCC plan was immediately criticized by prospective broadcast operators, which include JoongAng Media Group, Chosun Ilbo, Dong-A Ilbo, Maeil Business Newspaper, Korea Economic Daily and Taekwang Group.

The Blue House tried to play down the proposal in response to the criticism that the KCC appeared to be favoring existing terrestrial broadcasters. Presidential spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung said the issue took up a small portion of the KCC’s presentation to the president.

“KCC Chairman Choi See-joong only briefed the president that discussions will begin on the issue next year. The topic on the multimode service appeared on the presentation slide, but no discussions took place,” said Kim.
“It only means that discussions will occur next year to see if those changes are necessary or not. It does not mean that a policy had already been decided.”

The KCC also said it planned to ease restrictions on the showing of commercials during terrestrial broadcasters’ programming to expand the local advertising market.

The KCC said that it wanted to increase advertising spending to 1 percent of gross domestic product by 2015 from 0.68 percent last year. This would represent a rise in ad spending from 7.5 trillion won ($6.5 billlion) last year to 13.8 trillion won. The KCC said it would allow commercial breaks in the middle of programs and end a ban on product placement for terrestrial broadcasters. A ban on ads for certain products, including drinking water and medical facilities, will also be eased. Terrestrial broadcasters would be allowed to cover some of their production costs with outside sponsorships.

The government will open to public debate next year the plans to introduce commercial breaks and late-night programs for terrestrial broadcasters. The government would remove the restrictions if there is public support.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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