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Bill Calls for Separation of Public and Private Broadcasters

Bill Calls for Separation of Public and Private Broadcasters

Posted December. 24, 2008 07:50,   


The ruling Grand National Party is pushing for a Public Broadcasting Act to allow the election of the chiefs of public broadcast networks by a public broadcasting committee.

The head of a network is now named by the president after a candidate is recommended by the broadcaster´s board of trustees.

Informed sources said yesterday that the party’s Special Committee on Media has tentatively decided to include in the proposed act an article on the election of public network chiefs by the public broadcasting committee.

The decision is aimed at transferring the right to appoint the KBS president to the broadcasting management committee to preempt social conflict stemming from accusations of political favoritism, which are made whenever a new KBS head is named, and to assure the political independence of public broadcasters.

The public broadcasting committee consists of five members, including two appointed by the ruling and opposition parties each and one by the president. Their three-year terms will be guaranteed by law.

The new plan imposes a cap on advertising at 20 percent of a public broadcaster’s income, and the remaining 80 percent must come from viewer fees.

The ruling party plans to hike the TV viewing fee over the long-term to ensure that public broadcasters are funded by public fees. It will also prompt existing advertisements aired by public broadcasters to flow into a new broadcasting market, encompassing general broadcasters, news and information channels, and Internet protocol TV.

If the new Public Broadcasting Act is enacted, it will lay the foundation for the establishment of a new structure under which one public and multiple privately run channels will operate. That is, the new act seeks to assure independence and public benefits of KBS and EBS as public broadcasters, and apply market principles for private networks like MBC and SBS.

MBC, whose identity as a public or private network remains ambiguous, will be classified as a private broadcaster, which will likely spark fierce competition in the broadcast market.

The ruling party is drafting a bill with a view to clearing the extraordinary parliamentary session in February. If submitted, however, the bill is expected to trigger a strong protest from certain broadcasters and opposition parties, sparking heated controversy.

The initial draft of the Public Broadcasting Act also includes the clause, "The management committee can discuss content and program scheduling," but a decision on the clause has been shelved. This is because of fears raised by certain lawmakers over the possible disruption of broadcaster independence.

Another clause in the bill urged the National Assembly to conduct advance reviews of public broadcaster budgets and post budgetary settlements. The clause has also been shelved, however, after several lawmakers said it constitutes excessive interference with public broadcasters´ operations.