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TV stations to talk with cable networks

The conflict between terrestrial and cable television operators over broadcast rights is expected to take a new turn as chiefs of terrestrial TV stations agreed to form a negotiation panel last Friday.

In a meeting organized by Choi See-joong last week, chairman of the state media regulator, representative of five major broadcast stations ― SBS, KBS, MBC, EBS and OBS ― said a panel must be formed to launch official talks.

“We should put an end to this issue by first designating an activation period for the panel,” said KBS president Kim In-kyu. “We will enthusiastically take part in the discussion group once it is formed. Those who choose not to participate in it should be given disadvantages.”

MBC president Kim Jae-chul also said the panel should be constructed at the earliest date since the second court ruling has been made public.

The event takes place after the Seoul High Court ruled last Wednesday that cable TV operators should stop broadcasts of terrestrial stations’ programs.

In September of last year, the first court ruling had also taken the side of the three terrestrial broadcasters ― SBS, KBS and MBC.

However, the court turned down the major TV stations’ request to have the cable TV operators to pay the major players up to 100 million won ($95,070) per day for the broadcasts.

If the cable TV operators are forced to stop featuring the programs of the major broadcasters, viewers will not be able to watch programs from terrestrial broadcasters on cable from as early as next month.

An official at the Korea Cable Television and Telecommunications said the cable TV operators will participate in the negotiation panel once it is constructed, but that they will most likely file an appeal against the court’s decision soon. If they do decide appeal, it is projected to take up to a year for the Supreme Court to draw up a conclusion.

“The fight between the two groups is inevitable considering that the country is expected to go digital by 2013 and most analog TV broadcasts are to finish by the end of this year,” said an industry source.

“To make that happen, terrestrial broadcasters need all the funding that is available, and it’s also a matter of survival for the cable TV stations.”

By Cho Ji-hyun (sharon@heraldcorp.com)
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