Shame on KBS

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Shame on KBS

 Public broadcaster KBS pushing for a hike in TV subscription fees has come under fire for reckless management. Opposition People Power Party (PPP) floor leader Kim Gi-hyeon said public annoyance is escalating due to KBS’s plan to raise license fees. The broadcaster has been indulging employees with bonuses of thousands of dollars without any endeavor to ease its ballooning deficit. The loss-making broadcaster, for instance, paid left-leaning political entertainer Kim Je-dong 3.5 million won ($3,000) per appearance, amounting to 700 million won a year, according to Rep. Kim of the PPP.

On June 30, the KBS board voted to increase the monthly TV license fee of 2,500 won per household to 3,800 won to normalize management due to its growing deficit.

Its charge is a type of “social tax” as it is collected through electricity bills on every household. But its move unaccompanied by self-restructuring efforts is facing strong public protest.

Earlier this year when the rate hike plan of the generous-paying public entity drew controversy, it explained that those earning more than 100 million won a year take up 46.4 percent of the payroll and 1,500 are without a title. It more or less admitted that a third of its 4,480 employees had been pocketing more than 100 million won a year without doing any regular work. According to payroll status by job status, labor costs for the senior level reached 280 billion won to 300 billion won a year, which accounts for 45 percent of the annual revenue from TV license fees.

Under such lenient circumstances, we cannot expect high-quality content from the public broadcaster.

KBS promised a reduction in labor costs and the disclosure of program production costs to enhance transparency in management. But whether actions will follow is questionable. KBS President Yang Seung-dong pledged to cut the payroll by 1,000 by 2023. But of them, 900 were already nearing retirement age. Since the announcement last year, no follow-up action has been taken.

KBS needs to regain public confidence before raising its fees. It has been embroiled in neutrality and fairness issues every time the governing power has changed. It must make its own efforts to normalize management. The company would best know why the license fee has been frozen for 40 years. Without self-reflection, the hike cannot gain approval from the Korea Communication Commission and the National Assembly.
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