Photo: KBS headquarters in Seoul. Credit: KBS.
On July 11, the Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 administration issued a presidential decree on the Broadcast Act 방송법 that would mandate that Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), South Korea’s public broadcasting channel similar to England’s BBC and Japan’s NHK, to collect its license fee on a standalone basis.
The fee to watch KBS on television - KRW 2.5k (USD 1.8) per month this year - had previously been automatically added to electricity bills. The change is expected to lead to a significant drop in fees collected, as many viewers will notice the separate charge for the first time and refuse to pay. KBS collects approximately KRW 690b (USD 545m) in license fees each year, making up 45% of its revenue. Standalone fees could cause that number to drop by more than 80% according to KBS’s own estimate.
The change to the Broadcast Act is seen as retaliation by the Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 administration for KBS’s critical coverage. Kim Eui-cheol 김의철, president of KBS, said the station would mount a challenge the decree in the Constitutional Court 헌법재판소 for infringement of the freedom of the press. Kim also announced that KBS will enter a state of emergency, suspending all new initiatives and considering measures to eliminate money-losing programs such as KBS’s classical music radio station or documentary filmmaking.