The Korea Herald


Will commercial breaks give second chance to terrestrial broadcasters?

Half-time ads permitted for terrestrial broadcasters, as well as product placements of alcoholic beverages for shows after 10 p.m.

By Kim Hae-yeon

Published : Jan. 14, 2021 - 19:28

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Terrestrial broadcasters will be allowed to air commercial breaks starting June, the first time since laws regulating the TV industry have been in place 48 years ago.

The Korea Communications Commission announced its “Broadcasting Market Promotion Policy Measures” on Wednesday. The Enforcement Decree of the Broadcasting Act states that commercial breaks will be allowed for all broadcasters regardless of their service providers. Current laws prohibit local terrestrial broadcasters from airing commercial breaks to ensure viewer rights.

A single commercial break is allowed for each 45 to 65-minute-long program, with an additional commercial break given for every extra 30 minutes in running time. Up to six commercial breaks are allowed within a single program, but the duration is limited to less than a minute each.

The update in guidelines now puts it on par with the existing paid broadcasting and Digital Multimedia Broadcasting service rules. The KCC’s change aims at reforming outdated regulations in the broadcasting market, while boosting vitality of the existing industry by responding to changes in the global media environment.

Under the previous broadcasting law, terrestrial broadcasters resorted to expedient tactics, such as strategically dividing programs into two or three parts, in order to air commercials in between the slots.

In addition, the revision also sought to eliminate regulatory differences that exist between terrestrial and paid broadcasting services.

The duration of paid product placements that appear on the small screen can account for up to 7 percent of the show’s airtime, while the total amount of advertising is permitted up to 20 percent of the show’s total length.

Product placements of alcoholic beverages, which used to be banned for terrestrial broadcasters, will also be allowed for shows that air after 10 p.m.

KCC Chair Han Sang-hyuk said, “We will actively improve current regulations related to the broadcasting sector that had failed to capture the rapid changes in the media environment, and also filter out unfair and discriminatory systems and practices, so that the management crisis in the domestic broadcasting market does not lead to weakened public value of broadcasting.”

However, some members of the public see it as an unnecessary change, pointing out that the real underlying problem is not the lack of commercial slots, but rather a problem of a missing competitive edge compared to other emerging media platforms, which leads to loss in loyal viewers.

“I do feel a sense of crisis while working, as I recognize that a lot of viewers have turned their backs on terrestrial broadcasters, with so much diversity in platforms to choose from and programs to watch nowadays,” Lee Yu-shim, a current affairs TV show producer working for KBS, said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

“However, I was a little disappointed that some channels assigned commercial breaks within their news shows. I wonder if their finances are really that bad at the moment.” Lee said.

By Kim Hae-yeon (