Cable TV firms joined the row of anti-free trade protestors along with rice farmers and Uri Party leaders, asking the government of South Korea not to open the broadcasting industry to foreigners in their ongoing free trading agreement (FTA) talks with the United States. A group of cable TV broadcasters and content providers held a street rally today in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Seoul saying they will make all-out efforts to maintain barriers on foreign shareholders in Korean media firms. Under South Korean law, foreigners cannot hold more than 49 percent of shares in a broadcasting firm or more than 30 percent in a newspaper company.
The association disparaged the US demand to open the market as ”cultural imperialism,” insisting that its ratification would allow massive US capital to swallow the fledgling Korean cable TV industry, and would thus damage the public interest. The deadline for the FTA negotiation is slated for 31 March.
“We pronounce that broadcasting should not be an agenda of the behind-the-scenes negotiations. We request (the government) to drop the issue immediately,” said Suh Byung-ho, leader of the group.
Broadcasting is one of the critical topics in the ongoing FTA talks between the two nations along with rice, beef, textiles and telecommunications. The United States has been requesting South Korea to remove the ceiling on foreign capital in the broadcasting industry. The cable broadcasters reacted fiercely when a local newspaper reported that CNN had asked South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun to allow it to broadcast news programmes dubbed in the Korean language, which is prohibited by law. CNN later denied the report.
Suh insisted that once the regulation is abolished, US media giants would easily gobble up minnow Korean broadcasting firms. He also said that US-made TV programmes already account for 67.6 percent of imported programmes, and such a heavy dependence on American culture content would deepen if the market were fully opened. He also said that foreign firms would hike the prices of broadcasting rights for popular programmes, such as the English Premier League, Major League Baseball and Hollywood movies.
(Source: Korea Times)