By Seo Dong-shin
An independent panel overseeing broadcasting policies Monday criticized remarks made by President Roh Moo-hyun that it considered to have undermined its status.
It is the latest development in the friction between the president and the panel involving the introduction
of a new body to take charge of broadcasting and telecom service convergence.
The move came five days after President Roh criticized the Korean Broadcasting Commission (KBC) in a press conference. "It is my opinion that a body with obscure legitimacy, with its roots not belonging anywhere, should not delay (the establishment of a new committee overseeing convergence of broadcasting and telecom) because such a delay would be irresponsible", Roh said.
The commission is currently embroiled in conflicts with other government agencies, including the Ministry of Information and Communication, over the establishment of a new body to govern the hybrid industry, which encompasses broadcasting and telecom services.
The nine members of the commission reaffirmed their leading role in representing the public interest in broadcasting services in a statement issued after an emergency meeting. The commission's labor union members backed the argument.
The government argues that delayed establishment of the converged regulator is costing the Korean economy dearly. For example, potential-laden services like Internet protocol TV (IPTV) are on hold, although the nation's telecom firms say they are technologically ready to launch such a promising offering.
Experts from telecom companies' research institutes estimate that the delay of IPTV, or Web-enabled broadcasting, will cost the country about $1 billion per annum and that this has raised the ire of Chong Wa Dae, which has been under attack for failing to invigorate the economy.
A government-initiated bill on setting up a ministry overseeing the convergence of broadcasting and telecom services is currently pending in the National Assembly. The president made an appeal for the swift passage of the bill. The KBC opposes it because the bill would curtail its regulatory authority.
The KBC was launched after much debate under former President Kim Dae-jung in 2000 in an attempt to break away from the past. Broadcasters had been under the direct control of the government up until the late 1980s.
"Independence and public interest in broadcasting are fundamental values our society should pursue. It was on these principles that a presidential advisory body for reforming broadcasting service was formed in December 1998. It launched KBC as an independent administrative body", the KBC said.