The copyright dispute between national broadcasters and cable television networks continues to escalate, but the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) continues to insist that cable firms are unlikely to act on their threat of a blackout on retransmitted terrestrial programs.
Not that the broadcasting regulator has any specific ideas on how to resolve the conflict. KCC Chairman Choi See-joong arranged a meeting between the heads of terrestrial broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS and cable system operators CNM, T-Broad and CMB at the agency Wednesday in attempting to referee the dispute, but the talks turned circular and fruitless, said a KCC insider Thursday.
Cable television companies are threatening to cut commercials from retransmitted terrestrial broadcasts on their networks after the national channels demanded payment for their content shown to cable customers.
The advertisement blackout, which the cable firms say will be imposed on channels KBS2, MBC and SBS, could prove as effective blackmail as more than 80 percent of Korean households get free, over-the-air television from cable connections.
"Nothing new came up in the talks yesterday, as both sides were unwilling to comprise. We are continuing to talk with the officials from the terrestrial and cable television providers today and there is an urgency that we will have to figure out something soon", said the KCC official.
Not that the KCC has an impressive track record in meditating television industry disputes, as evidenced by the way it handled the dispute between terrestrial stations over SBS's exclusive coverage of the recent Winter Olympics and FIFA World Cup.
The copyright dispute between cable and national television networks received a new twist earlier this month when the Seoul Central District Court ruled it unlawful for cable companies to retransmit terrestrial signals without consent.
The national networks are determined to be paid for their programs shown on cable television and it remains to be seen whether the cost will eventually get passed on to consumers.
The three major national networks have been asking cable operators to pay over 300 won per viewer for monthly access to each of the channels.
Considering that cable channels currently receive about 6,000 won in monthly average revenue per user, forking out around 1,000 won of that money to terrestrial stations would be a significant financial hit.
Cable firms are balking at the demands, pointing out that the terrestrial stations have been relying on local cable providers to fulfill their legal requirements for providing universal access.
Although the country's pay-television market is impressive in size, the paucity of content has been a problem, as the dearth of independent content has the cable channels relying heavily on the programs provided by the "big-three" terrestrial networks KBS, MBC and SBS.
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