The Integrated Broadcasting Law was passed in the plenary session of the National Assembly last Tuesday. Governing the local broadcasting media, including satellite broadcasting, in the new century, it will go into effect in two months.
The passage of the law, long a source of conflict between the ruling and opposition camps, will have a significant impact on the development of Korea's broadcasting industry in the coming years, as it integrates existing laws on broadcasting, including one on cable broadcasting, and sets guidelines for the operation of satellite and digital broadcasting.
The legislation is an epoch-making event in that it paves the way for the start of satellite broadcasting in our country. Three satellites have already been launched at a total cost of more than 430 billion won, but they have remained idle due to the lack of laws covering their operation.
Satellite broadcasting, expected to start in late 2001, will offer the people a choice of more than 100 channels. The new broadcasting law allows business conglomerates and existing mass media companies to take part in satellite and cable broadcasting, but they are limited to not more than 33 percent of total shares. Several competent corporations are sure to join in the broadcasting business under the new law. The expected competition among existing and new broadcasting companies will greatly improve the service to the public in terms of both quality and quantity.
The new law will surely facilitate the development of our broadcasting industry in the next century. Despite this, however, questions are being raised over whether the law will truly serve its original purpose of guaranteeing the independence of the broadcast media.
The bill was drafted by the Presidential Commission on Broadcasting Reform which was active from late last year. But many key points proposed by the commission were omitted in the course of debate in the National Assembly as a result of pressure from various interest groups.
The main point of contention is the selection of the nine members of the Broadcasting Commission, which, under the new law, will wield considerable power. The commission, which at present mainly deals with matters such as whether particular programs are relevant for general viewing, will be empowered to issue licenses to broadcasting companies in addition to the right of deciding major broadcasting policy.
Lawmakers of the opposition Grand National Party have mainly expressed discontent with the ruling camp's decision on the composition of the commission. The new law allows the President to appoint three commission members, the remaining six being appointed evenly by the House Speaker and the Culture-Tourism Committee of the National Assembly. …