The Korea Communications Commission pre-announced Wednesday legislation of the revised act of the “Enforcement decree of the Broadcasting Act,” which allows commercial breaks on public TV channels. After collecting feedback for 40 days and passing the Cabinet meeting vote, commercial breaks will be allowed up to six times per program starting in the first half of next year. Commercial breaks have high risk of violating viewer rights, prohibited by previous administrations as network TVs already enjoy various benefits such as virtual and indirect ads, advertisement quota system and free allocation of top frequency range. However, the commission succumbed to the continuous requests of network TV on grounds of business deterioration.
Three domestic broadcasting stations argue that ad revenue has declined over 30 percent for the recent five years. However, the combined earned surplus of the three companies exceeds 2.5 trillion won, and KBS even receives TV license fee of 600 billion won every year. It does not make sense to claim business deterioration by solely considering reduced ad revenues.
Ad revenue decline for network TV is inevitable in the new world of diverse channels, which should be addressed through business rationalization and program innovation. KBS is known for its lax business management, with 60 percent of its employees enjoying annual salary of over 100 million won. The Korea Communications Commission, ignoring such conditions, has opted to permit commercial breaks and raise license fees. Who would accept such change, when broadcasting stations are already employing expedients to split programs into several sections to air ads?
The commission should be mindful of protecting viewers' rights rather than worrying about ad loss at broadcasting companies. Already 60 percent of respondents of a survey conducted by Realmeter opposed introduction of commercial breaks, based on "limiting viewers’ rights" and "encouraging excessive commercialization." Most countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and Japan, do not allow commercial breaks for public television, which use airwaves at no cost. If the Korea Communications Commission permits commercial breaks, despite its risk of violating viewers’ rights and threating balanced growth for media, it would be only natural to have reasonable doubt of whether the commission is acting in favor of the broadcasting companies and curry favor with pro-government public opinion.