Korean bill seeks to unify reg agencies

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SEOUL, South Korea -- The Korean government announced Wednesday an early draft of legislation that would integrate the broadcasting and telecommunications regulatory bodies here. The move comes despite strong resistance from within existing government bureaucracies.

With broadcasting and communications moving ever faster toward convergence, the government has been eager to revamp current laws to eliminate overlapping jurisdictions that are getting in the way of innovation and commercial progress.

Under the proposed legislation, the government would create a Broadcasting and Telecommunications Committee that would take over all current regulatory bodies and assume responsibility for issuing licenses; establishing, coordinating and enforcing policy; resolving conflicts across platforms; making and managing programming funds; and creating content and advertising regulations.

The legislation also calls for the establishment of the Broadcast Information and Telecommunications Screening Committee, which would combine several ethics regulatory bodies currently policing platforms independently of one another.

Public hearings on the new legislation will begin Monday, with a final version of the bill set to be prepared by the end of the month. The final legislation, once passed by the National Assembly, would take effect in February.

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and the Ministry of Information and Communication, along with the Korean Broadcasting Commission, are jostling for control over the future of these new technologies and are resisting giving up their current power to a new body.

The Korean Broadcasting Commission's labor union also is opposing the new legislation, which would turn KBC employees into public officials.

Despite the speed at which Korea went broadband, bureaucratic infighting has prevented progress in many fields, including Internet Protocol TV and television on mobile phones. The nation is beginning only now to roll out IPTV services because the governmental regulatory bodies could not agree on standards.

With a lack of legitimate alternatives, video rental and retail have collapsed, while Internet piracy has flourished.

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