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[Editorial] Fallacy of commercial broadcasting laws

Posted December. 27, 2000 09:42,   


The very essence of broadcasting is to benefit the public, whether through its regular programming offered or commercial advertisements. However, the "laws pertaining to commercial broadcasting and sales agency," now being worked out by the government, are heading run counter to this aim.

The Regulatory Reform Committee, while reviewing the provisions of the bill submitted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, has decided to permit the establishment of two new networks in addition to the existing commercial broadcast corporations. Then, in 2003, allow for the establishment of such agencies through a simple registration process. Also eased will be the investment restriction on broadcast companies.

Should such a bill pass, each of the three major broadcasters, KBS, MBC and SBS, would be allowed to establish on-air commercial sales agencies which could easily be foreseen as heralding an exhaustive competition.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism originally sought to categorize the state-run and commercial broadcasters with state-run KBS and MBC and privately run SBS. A review by the Regulatory Reform Committee brought on a revision.

The Regulatory Reform Committee explained that while the current administration sought free-market liberalization of the on-the-air advertising industry, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism continued to favor a monopoly of the state-run broadcasting corporations.

The revision was thus necessary. However, with the three major broadcasters freely competing in the on-the-air advertising market, the market itself may become a target of distortion, which would lead to the general impairment of the broadcast and news industries.

Even now, the three major broadcasters account for 90% of TV advertisements, and the free competition could only increase their share of the market while other broadcasters such as the religious channels would face a worsening environment. In addition, the cost of advertising could skyrocket.

Civic groups including the People's Solidarity for the Democratic Press Movement pointed out, "In the good name of market theory, should the broadcasters divert all of their efforts toward profitability, the competition for viewers could lead to less choice for viewers. In addition, the increased cost to advertisers would only become a burden for viewers."

Stubbornly adhering to market principles while overlooking the unique nature of commercial broadcasting could lead to lower quality programming and promote increased competition between a few broadcasters vying for profits. Such development would only lead to burden on the public. The very foundation of the system of marriage between the private and state-run broadcasters may be at risk.

At this point, it would be prudent to adopt a transitional phase of limited competition through a dual ownership system, where the broadcast companies are owned by both the state and privately. Once such a measure is in place, it would be advisable to examine the possibility of a free market. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism must reject the decision by the Regulatory Reform Committee and make an appeal while the public waits and watches.