People need to know
Bring everything on new cable channels to light
Can an industry hope to operate normally by redoubling output while consumer demand remains largely the same? The answer apparently is no. But that’s what the nation’s broadcasting policymakers and largest newspapers have been doing amid widespread suspicions of foul play and the granting of special favors.
So it was very welcome when the Seoul Administrative Court ruled Friday that the Korea Communications Commission should provide information on the selection and operation of the four recently established cable channel firms, named the ``general programming cable channels,” or GPCs.
The GPCs are so called because unlike most other cable channels that specialize in specific subjects, like music or sport, they can produce and provide all kinds of programs related to information and entertainment like network stations. Unlike the latter, however, they can broadcast 24 hours a day and stick advertising in the middle of shows. In short, the GPCs are enjoying all the advantages of network and cable stations.
Still all four GPCs are reeling under snowballing losses with viewing figures hovering below a dismal 1 percent, triggering rampant speculation about sell-offs after just six months of operation.
Actually, the current situation was all too obvious to almost all media experts and even non-experts when the nation’s four largest, conservative dailies sought to jump into the broadcast market already nearly saturated by the four existing public and commercial network stations. Blinding their eyes was the Lee Myung-bak administration’s ambition to perpetuate the conservatives’ seizure of power combined with anxiety from big papers to diversify from a print business on the rapid wane.
The KCC said new licenses were to create jobs, advance the domestic broadcast industry and better reflect the diversity of public opinion.
As it turned out, however, they pushed up only the market worth of the limited broadcast personnel rather than creating many jobs, as well as redoubling the volume of conservative voices, both in print and in electronic media, and brought about an extreme waste of electronic wave by supplying largely similar but far less popular entertainment programs.
Before it is too late, the KCC must release information on their selection and funding process. In retrospect, the screening committee was one-sidedly composed of pro-government figures, who used ``immeasurable” ― subjective ― items in evaluation. No less questionable was the undue investment into the GPCs by the struggling savings bank. Mirae Savings Bank, whose CEO was caught trying to sneak into China, for instance, poured $5 million into two GPCs, under the suspected pressure of government and governing party politicians.
The KCC reportedly is weighing up whether or not to bring the case to an appeals court, saying the release of information would lead to endless suspicions and hurt the management of investor firms. This is too lame an excuse, given the waste of public resources and people’s right to know about it. By saying so, the commission is already admitting to a less than fair and square process.
The Lee administration must not delude itself, thinking it can get away with all the irregularities because of the governing party’s victory in the April 11 general elections. All corruption by political power will eventually come out into the open. The only questions that remain are when and how.