Fuzzy reception

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Fuzzy reception

The four terrestrial broadcasters - KBS, MBC, SBS and EBS - signed a pact last week to collaborate in an effort to provide better services by employing technology that allows them to provide multiple digital channels.

The unprecedented partnership among terrestrial broadcasters was ostensibly forged to offer viewers more choices. But the move could saturate the TV landscape and lead to a shift in market share away from cable and satellite television operators.

The technology will allow terrestrial broadcasters to employ digital compression to add channels within the confines of the bandwidth currently reserved for analog broadcast signals. The broadcasters are scheduled to complete the shift to a digital system in 2013.

But the broadcasters are not looking to improve the quality of their current services. Rather, they are simply looking to boost the number of channels under their umbrella. The are displaying the kind of arrogance that is typical of the old guard, and they are clearly suspicious of and hostile to new competition.

The broadcasters seem to have the support of the government body that oversees the industry. In a briefing to President Lee Myung-bak, the Korea Communications Commission said it will come up with measures next year to allow terrestrial broadcasters to add more channels through multicasting technology.

It cited the need to shift to a “smart” broadcasting system and stressed its desire to promote the content market and create the foundation for global corporate media groups. But control of the industry should not be left in the hands of territorial broadcasters, who more or less enjoy a monopoly.

If they are allowed to maintain their dominant position going forward, smaller cable and satellite TV firms, upstart channels and communications firms will not stand a chance in the market. It’s no wonder, then, that some of the smaller players in the industry are already expressing concern about the plan.

The broadcasting authority should look at the bigger picture and employ strategies focused on the long term in setting the framework for the new media environment. It must focus on ways to sharpen the international competitiveness of the broadcasting industry instead of aggravating domestic competition.

Above all, the broadcasting authority must recognize that the owners of the airwaves are not the companies with a vested interest in the industry, but the citizens.
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