TV battle halts as deal is made after deluge of complaints

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TV battle halts as deal is made after deluge of complaints

KBS 2TV finally resumed broadcast yesterday at 7 p.m. after cable operators and the three terrestrial broadcast networks came to an agreement during a meeting mediated by the Korea Communications Commission.

The Korea Communications Commission had stated yesterday if the cable companies do not revive the broadcast by today at 8 p.m., a three-month suspension of business would be ordered.

The resumption came after a growing number of cable subscribers voiced outrage at both cable television operators and the broadcast network after12 million households were deprived of their favorite programs for two days.

Complaints were rampant on the Internet, including on Twitter and KBS 2TV’s Web site yesterday, many written by those who were eagerly awaiting the final two episodes of KBS’s medical drama “Brain,” broadcast Mondays and Tuesdays at 10 p.m.

One viewer wrote on the KBS Web site forum, “Do anything to return broadcasting to normal.”

Caught in a pricing war between cable television operators and the three major terrestrial broadcasters, KBS, MBC and SBS, these cable subscribers were left without both high- and standard-definition connections to one of the KBS network’s two channels, KBS 2TV, since 3 p.m. on Monday, when cable TV operators stopped relaying the channel.

“Why is KBS 2TV not showing? It’s not like some emergency situation occurred, so is it okay to mock viewers like this?” was the opinion of another frustrated cable subscriber.

Viewership of the popular KBS 2TV medical drama series “Brain” was down 4 percent Monday compared to average viewership last week of 10.4 percent according to TNmS, a ratings research company. Cable operators and the three major broadcasting networks have been at odds with each other for the past five years regarding whether the cable operators should pay broadcast networks for retransmitting their programs nationwide.

Initially, cable operators were able to retransmit the broadcast channels free of charge - which they believed was within their rights - but starting in 2007, the three networks demanded the cable operators pay a fee for relaying their content. Cable system operators retaliated by stating that through their cable infrastructure, networks were able to provide their content to fringe areas nationwide which would otherwise not have been able to receive transmissions.

Thus, cable operators boosted viewership for the broadcast channels, which in turn raised the networks’ advertisement revenue.

According to a spokesperson of an emergency council held by the cable system operators, KBS 2TV was chosen simply as an example.

Seoul High Court ruled in favor of the broadcast networks on Oct. 28 last year, ordering cable company CJ Hello Vision to pay fees to the networks or stop broadcasting their content.


By Sarah Kim, Lim Ju-ri [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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