Regulator focuses on public interest in merger

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Regulator focuses on public interest in merger

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) has unveiled guidelines to ensure that the proposed controversial merger between SK Telecom and CJ HelloVision is in the public interest.

The country’s broadcasting regulator will also focus on whether the deal meets investment feasibility plans.

The proposed acquisition, which is worth around 1 trillion won ($875 million), triggered antritrust concerns, as it combines the nation’s largest wireless carrier with the top cable TV network.

The reason for the emphasis on public interest is because CJ HelloVision distributes ready-made broadcasting content and makes programs outside of Seoul.

Some industry players, including competitors KT and LG U+ and civil rights groups, expressed worries that the acquisition could compromise fairness in the broadcasting industry.

Acknowledging the size and potential impact of the deal, the KCC will invite nine outside experts in media, legal and accounting circles to form a committee to look into the likely merger.

The committee will deliver its results to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning. Three government bodies - the KCC, the ICT Ministry and the Fair Trade Commission - engaged in the review process after SK Telecom filed for it last December.

In assessing the public interest, the committee will look at whether the deal will ensure free access to TV content by a diverse range of viewers.

The members will also discuss the prospects related to the diversification of TV content after the potential deal.

Another area of discussion is the investment feasibility proposed by SK Telecom and SK Broadband, a subsidiary of the carrier that operates IPTV services along with its landline business.

SK Telecom plans to invest 5 trillion won over the next five years in media-related businesses should the company’s proposal be approved. The company said the fund will go toward improving networks and building additional platforms to present different types of digital content.

While SK Telecom awaits a decision, major telecommunications rivals KT and LG U+ oppose the plan, maintaining SK Telecom’s management of the TV service provider could compromise public trust in the media business.

The two telecom firms are working together to derail SK’s proposal, saying the combination of the largest cable TV service provider and top telecommunications operator with a broadband subsidiary under its belt could violate fair business practices.


BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]



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