The nation's cable TV system operators (SOs) took bold action on Thursday to prompt terrestrial TV networks to charge lower fees for using their programs, threatening to stop relaying both standard and high-definition programs of the terrestrial channels early next week.
The SOs and three major terrestrial TV companies -- KBS, MBC and SBS -- have failed to narrow differences in negotiations over how much the SOs should pay the terrestrial TV companies to broadcast their programs.
"If no breakthrough is made in the ongoing negotiations with major TV networks, we are going to stop relaying both standard and high-definition programs of MBC, KBS 2TV and SBS channels starting Monday afternoon," an emergency council of cable TV SOs said.
"We will hold another meeting on Monday morning to decide the exact time we plan to cut off retransmission," it added.
The threat comes after the SOs stopped airing terrestrial channels' high-definition programs for eight days from late November to early December, forcing the nation's estimated 7.7 million digital cable TV subscribers to watch programs from the terrestrial channels through lower-quality standard definition broadcasts. The suspension, however, did not affect standard-definition programs.
The latest plan, if realized, is expected to cause a significant inconvenience to the nation's approximately 15 million cable TV subscribers.
The negotiations began after a local court ruled in favor of the terrestrial TV networks last October, ordering CJ Hello Vision, one of the SOs, to pay the fees or stop using the programs.
In the latest round of talks, the SOs agreed to pay about 100 won ($0.08) per subscriber in monthly retransmission fees. The two sides remain at odds over whether to charge the fees for all subscribers or only new subscribers.
They also failed to agree upon how much the terrestrial stations should pay to the cable operators as a reward for their contribution to increasing viewers by relaying programs to fringe areas. The SOs are demanding the terrestrial networks share about 18 to 20 percent of revenues they earn from commercials, but terrestrial TV networks say the percentage is too high. (Yonhap News)