Future Of Korean Network KBS In Doubt As Government Mulls Funding Shake-Up, Says Public Media Advocate

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The viability of South Korea’s KBS is under threat due to government plans to alter its funding mechanism, according a public service media advocacy group.

The Global Task Force for Public Media — which counts KBS, the BBC and CBC among its members — has issued a statement warning plans to change legislation would hand the public service broadcaster “an existential crisis.”

Korea’s government wants to separate the collection of KBS’s license fee from electricity bills. The current system has been in place since 1994, and sees every household with a TV receiver charged a monthly ₩2,500 ($1.91) a month for a bundle on top of their electrical services. KBs filed an injection against the government two days too top the move.

KBS argues changing the existing mechanism could dramatically reduce its revenue pot and impact its public service mission. The Global Task Force’s statement backs up this analysis, saying KBS would be “crippled financially, risking its programs and services to South Koreans, and leaving it unable to fulfil its mandate.”

“The very foundation of public service media in the country would be endangered,” it added.

“The success of any public media organization depends on sustainable public funding that supports and respects its organizational and editorial independence,” said Global Task Force Chair and CBC-Radio Canada CEO Catherine Tait. “In the South Korean context, we hope that KBS’s financial stability and ability to operate are assured so that it can continue to fulfil its public service mandate.”

KBS has been a Global Task Force member since 2020. This year, it celebrated its 50th anniversary though it has dogged in recent times by a lack of funding.

Public service broadcasters are under threat around the world, through the duel threats of audience migration to global streaming services and the issues of impartiality, which divides those who support their function and those who believe they spread disinformation and are no longer fit for purpose.

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