KBS 2 programs off for 2nd day
By Lee Hyo-sik
Cable TV operators refused to retransmit both digital and analog programs from KBS 2 for a second day Tuesday, threatening to cut off MBC programs if terrestrial broadcasters do not accept their demands over transmission fees.
With the conflict escalating between cable and terrestrial networks, KBS 2 dramas and other programs suffered a steep fall in viewer ratings as about 15 million cable TV subscribers across the country were unable to watch programs aired on the commercial channel operated by the state-run broadcaster.
For instance, its popular medical drama ``Brain,’’ which is aired every Monday and Tuesday, became the biggest victim to the ongoing broadcasting suspension. Its ratings for Tuesday episode fell to 11 percent from last week’s 16.5 percent. Many TV viewers instead tuned in to drams aired on MBC and SBS.
KBS said it will consider taking legal action against the Korea Cable TV Association (KCTA), which ordered its members to halt the airing of KBS 2 programs on their channels, calling the move an ``unlawful act’’ by taking viewers hostage. The broadcaster is urging the association to immediately resume transmissions.
The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) has ordered cable stations to restart airing KBS 2 programs on their channels. Otherwise, it would impose a 50-million won ($43,000) fine on each cable operator and suspend their business licenses for three months, the state-run communications regulator said.
However, the KCTA has not budged from its hard-line stance, saying it will stop retransmitting MBC programs if KBS, MBC and SBS continue to reject their demands.
“It’s unfair and unreasonable that the KCC is trying to sanction only cable TV operators,” it said in a statement. “The three terrestrial broadcasters should be blamed for the suspension as they are the root cause of the current conflict.”
Cable TV operators suspended the transmission of KBS 2 programs as of 3 p.m., Monday. They targeted KBS 2 because it also runs advertisements, while KBS 1 does not.
The KCTA said it had no choice but to suspend the airing of KBS 2 programs in both high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD) on cable channels as broadcasters refuse to strike a deal over transmission fees.
“Even if we are sanctioned by the communications regulator, we will continue to halt the retransmission,” it said.
The Korea Advertisers Association issued a statement Tuesday, calling on cable TV operators to resume the retransmission. It also urged terrestrial broadcasters to more actively negotiate with cable stations over transmission fees.
Terrestrial broadcasters and cable TV stations have negotiated how much the latter should pay the former for airing public channel programs.
Broadcasters insisted that cable operators pay 280 won for each subscriber, stressing that cable operators should pay for the airing of their programs.
But cable stations are only willing to offer 100 won, saying they should be able to transmit terrestrial shows free of charge as the retransmission helps broadcasters reach a broader audience and boosts their advertising revenue.
In November, cable operators stopped the retransmission of HD programs of all three terrestrial broadcasters, forcing their subscribers to watch KBS, MBC and SBS programs only through SD channels. The stoppage designed to force broadcasters to accept their demands lasted for eight days.