TV drama industry receives new rules on fairness

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TV drama industry receives new rules on fairness

The TV drama industry has been making headlines in Korea lately as big broadcasters rake in all the profits and independent production companies and actors are left in the lurch. As a result, the government has announced a set of contract guidelines aimed at leveling the playing field.

The move comes after the suicide last week of renowned TV director and producer Kim Jong-hak, who was struggling with financial issues. He was being sued for not properly paying the cast of his most recent series on SBS, “Faith,” along with others.

The incident shed light on the situation in the industry, where only the major broadcasters use their power to force independent production companies to foot the bill for putting shows together, leaving them in debt.

Under the guidelines announced by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism yesterday, big broadcasters like KBS, SBS and MBC will be obliged to specify in their contracts exactly how they plan to share the costs and profits from shows.

Although production companies spend an average of 300 million won ($269,763) per episode, it’s a widely accepted practice for broadcasters to be ambiguous about cost and profit sharing. They often cover less than half the budget, while keeping the profits. They hold the power, as it’s up to them when a show will air or if it will air at all.

“We ask you to adopt this standard contract so that the country can achieve sustainable development and fair practices in popular culture and broadcast content,” said Culture Minister Yoo Jin-ryoung.

The Culture Ministry also hoped to remedy the fact that actors often get paid late or not at all.

Media reports said that the in case of Kim’s “Faith,” the cast and crew were owed an estimated 640 million won. Recently, nine dramas that have run on Korea’s three major TV stations have been involved in similar lawsuits.

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