South Korea mulls change to ad law

KOBACO decision could be overturned next year

BANGKOK -- South Korea's Constitutional Court ruled last week that the Korea Broadcast Advertising Corp.'s monopoly on ad brokering for leading broadcaster KBS and other terrestrial stations is unconstitutional.

English-language daily the Korea Times reported that the court recommended that, by December 2009, Seoul revise Korea's broadcasting law which guarantees KOBACO's grip on ad brokering for broadcast media.

Since its founding in 1981, KOBACO has handled ad brokering for 147 terrestrial television and radio stations nationwide.

The ruling comes after a 2006 petition by a private ad agency, which claimed that the law granting KOBACO and its affiliates the right to do all ad brokering for terrestrial broadcasters infringed viewers' freedom of choice.

The court said it will delay revising the law to prevent chaos in the depressed market and recommended that the government come up with measures, such as production subsidies, to encourage broadcasters to produce programs of public interest.

Since its start 27 years ago, KOBACO has helped finance smaller local broadcasters and religious broadcasters, which are less favored by advertisers than big broadcasters such as KBS, MBC and SBS, the Times reported.

The court's ruling was criticized by KOBACO supporters, who claim it plays a role in maintaining broadcasting independence by preventing advertisers from influencing programming directly.

The administration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has said it plans to privatize television advertising for terrestrial broadcasting.