KBS practically begs for first fee increase in 4 decades

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KBS practically begs for first fee increase in 4 decades

President Yang Seung-dong of KBS speaks during a press conference held at the KBS Annex in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Thursday. [NEWSIS]

President Yang Seung-dong of KBS speaks during a press conference held at the KBS Annex in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Thursday. [NEWSIS]

 
KBS is well aware of the criticism it faces but promises to do better with increased TV license fees.    
 
The Korean Broadcasting System, better known as KBS, announced that its board of directors passed the proposal to raise TV license fees from 2,500 won ($2.21) to 3,800 won a month on Wednesday, during a press conference held at the KBS Annex in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Thursday.  
 
If approved by the National Assembly, it will be the first increase since 1981. Since 1994, the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) has been adding TV license fees to electricity bills in which more than 50 kilowatt hour (kWh) of power is used.  
 
President Yang Seung-dong of KBS announced the goal of “TV license fee realization″ at his New Year's address.
 
“We are not asking to raise the fees simply because it has stayed the same for 41 years,” said Kim Sang-keun, chairman of KBS’s board of directors, at Thursday's conference. “We are asking because it is inevitable. We cannot fulfill our responsibilities as a public broadcasting station in our current financial situation.”
 
From left, President Yang, Chairman Kim Sang-keun of KBS’s board of directors and KBS’s Executive Vice President Lim Byung-kul attend Thursday’s press conference. [NEWS1]

From left, President Yang, Chairman Kim Sang-keun of KBS’s board of directors and KBS’s Executive Vice President Lim Byung-kul attend Thursday’s press conference. [NEWS1]

 
Many have criticized KBS for overpaying its employees who were not putting in effort to make interesting programs, and that KBS was increasing advertisements yet still wanted more revenue via TV license fees.  
 
According to a KBS survey, 91.9 percent of people believed that public broadcasting stations are necessary, but only 42.6 percent said KBS has been fulfilling that role. Nonetheless, 79.9 percent of them agreed that a rise in TV license fees was necessary. After months of public opinion polling and internal discussions, the board eventually passed the proposal on Wednesday. 
 
President Yang, Chairman Kim and Executive Vice President Lim Byung-kul of KBS addressed criticism by offering plans for improvement.  
 
“We are aware of the people’s criticism: incompetent management, being a mouthpiece of the government and arrogance,” Kim said.    
 
“Even the board of directors were skeptical when we submitted the proposal, because the public’s perspective of KBS is already very negative due to our incompetent management and broadcasting mistakes every now and then,” said Yang. “But the board made a tough decision for the future of KBS.”
 
After offering a mea culpa, the officials defended the decision.  
 
The KBS headquarters building in Yeouido, western Seoul. [JOONGANG PHOTO]

The KBS headquarters building in Yeouido, western Seoul. [JOONGANG PHOTO]

 
“KBS’s main source of revenue is intended to be TV license fees,” said Yang. “Britain’s BBC and Japan’s NHK respectively get 70 percent and 90 percent of their revenue via license fees. That number is currently only 47.3 percent for KBS, and will be 58 percent once the proposal is authorized by the National Assembly.”
 
Even after the raise, KBS’s license fees will still be much lower than those of other countries. As of 2019, Britain’s BBC collected 154.50 pounds ($209) annually, which is 7.7 times Korea’s fee, while Germany’s ZDF collects 210 euros ($255) and France’s FT collects 139 euros.  
 
Officials promised the public that KBS will put the increased TV license fees to good use. Some of the improvement plans presented by Lim were strengthened 24-hour disaster coverage, return of epic historical dramas and TV concerts that everyone can enjoy. 
 
It announced austerity measures, such as cutting 1,400 jobs over five years and hiring about 500 new employees. One-third of the newly-hired employees will be assigned to the digital content section.  
 
“Yesterday’s passing of the proposal was not portrayed in a positive light in the media. So we are expecting that it will be very difficult to get public approval, and also to get passed in the National Assembly. We are not optimistic about raising TV license fees either,” said Kim.

BY HALEY YANG [yang.hyunjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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