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[News Focus] Conservative cable TV channels get renewed licenses – and a warning

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

Korea’s communications watchdog renewed the licenses for TV Chosun and Channel A, but attached the condition they maintain fairness and objectivity standards in broadcasting.

The Korea Communications Commission on Monday renewed the licenses for the two general-programming cable TV channels just a day ahead of their due expiration.

With the renewed licenses, Channel A, run by Dong-A Ilbo, a daily newspaper, can operate for four more years, while TV Chosun, run by Chosun Ilbo, can operate for three more years,

However, the commission attached conditions for the renewal of both licenses. The renewed licenses may be canceled or their renewal refused if the channels -- known for their conservative outlooks -- fail to meet the regulator’s conditions of public responsibility and fairness in their content.

The decision came almost four weeks after the commission deferred a decision on the renewal of the license for the two channels during a plenary session held March 26.

During the session, the KCC renewed broadcasting rights for the country’s two all-news cable channels, Yonhap News TV and YTN, by four years.

Both TV Chosun and Channel A received scores higher than the 650 points required for license renewal.

However, TV Chosun failed to meet the standard in one of the core categories of fairness in broadcasting and its contribution to public interest, while the KCC’s decision on Channel A was postponed in relation to an ongoing probe into allegations that one of its reporters abused his ties with a high-ranking prosecutor while reporting.

Going into Monday’s meeting, the commission members were split on the license renewal for the two cable TV channels.

Ahn Hyung-hwan, a standing member of the commission recommended by the opposition United Future Party, demanded the renewal of license without conditions, arguing it as unfair for the government to assess the fairness of broadcasters in the first place.

Kim Chang-yong, a standing member of the commission recommended by the government, called for the cancellation of TV Chosun’s license, stating the channel has been “upfront in its distortion of truths.”

“While a news broadcaster must pursue the truth and check on power, TV Chosun has been siding with specific forces,” Kim said, accusing the channel of biased content.

“TV Chosun not only claimed that the May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising had been led by North Korea, but was accused of spreading fake news about the General Security of Military Information Agreement between Japan and South Korea last year,” Kim added.


Standing member of Korea Communications Commission Huh Wook (Yonhap)
Standing member of Korea Communications Commission Huh Wook (Yonhap)

The commission agreed on commissioner Huh Wook’s proposal for a three-year extension of TV Chosun’s license, with a stricter condition attached as the channel had received low scores in previous evaluations as well. The channel scored 57 percent and 54 percent for fairness in 2014 and 2017, respectively, and failed to reach the 50 percent mark this year. In 2017, it was the only general-programming cable channel to score below 650 overall.

The KCC renewed TV Chosun’s license, but said the renewal may be limited if TV Chosun continuously fails in any of the core standards of evaluation or scores below 650.

In renewing the licenses for TV Chosun and Channel A, the commission also added that the licenses would be canceled or renewals refused if they are penalized more than five times for violations of broadcasting rules or penalized twice for violating election broadcasting rules.

Public outrage against the two conservative broadcasters has been mounting. An anonymous petition filed on the presidential office website on April 7 for the cancellation of licenses for Channel A and TV Chosun had been signed by more than 254,000 people as of 3 p.m. on Tuesday, requiring a response from Cheong Wa Dae.

By Choi Ji-won (jwc@heraldcorp.com)
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