Korea’s KBS faces ‘existential crisis’, warns BBC, ZDF, France TV & CBC

Kim Eui-chul

South Korea’s KBS faces an “existential crisis” if proposals to change its funding mechanism move ahead, according to some of the world’s biggest public broadcasters including the UK’s BBC, CBC in Canada, ZDF in Germany and France Télévisions.

Around half of KBS’s revenue comes from the licence fee, which is funded via a levy on electricity bills that amounts to around $2 per month.

South Korea’s government has been looking to separate the licence fee collection process, a move that KBS – led by CEO Kim Eui-chul – has argued will hit its revenue. The broadcaster is attempting to stop the move by launching an injunction against the regulator, the Korean Communications Commission.

Now, the BBC,  CBC, ZDF and France TV, as well as the ABC in Australia, RNZ in New Zealand, Sweden’s SVT and KBS itself have issued a statement via the Global Task Force (GTF) for public media highlighting the potential impacts.

“If enacted, KBS faces an existential crisis – it would be crippled financially, risking its programs and services to South Koreans, and leaving it unable to fulfil its mandate,” said the GTF’s statement. “The very foundation of public service media in the country would be endangered.

“At a time of increasing disinformation and polarization, public broadcasters in many countries are facing existential threats. Now is not the time to weaken one of democracy’s greatest strengths – independent, viable public media that are trusted sources of accessible and verified news and information.”

Catherine Tait, the Global Task Force chair and president & CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada, added: “The success of any public media organisation depends on sustainable public funding that supports and respects its organizational and editorial independence.

“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.”

The Global Task Force for public media was set up in 2020 and aims to promote and defend the values of public media. KBS joined the group earlier this year.

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