KBS Chief Presses President Not to Alter License Fee Collection

9th June 2023
The chief of the Korean Broadcasting System, or KBS, has offered to resign if the government withdraws its plan to separate the collection of television license fees from household electricity bills. KBS CEO Kim Eui-cheol pressed the presidential office, criticizing the plan, which he said will shake the fiscal resources of the public broadcaster.
The KBS logo on the side of its HQ building.
KBS is the main public broadcaster for South Korea. Credit: KBS
This report was originally published on KBS and is republished with permission.

By Kim Bum-soo

The head of the Korean Broadcasting System(KBS) has urged the government to scrap its plan to remove the broadcaster’s license fees from electricity bills.

During a news conference at KBS on Thursday, KBS President and CEO Kim Eui-cheol said that he will step down if the Yoon Suk Yeol administration finds him problematic.

[Sound bite: KBS President and CEO Kim Eui-cheol (Korean-English)]
“If the problem is me as an appointee of the previous government, I will step down. I ask the president to immediately withdraw the planned separate collection of TV license fees, which will shake the very foundation of public broadcasting. Once the plan is scrapped, I will leave. I would also like to officially request a meeting with the president to discuss plans for the future and development of KBS, a leading public broadcaster in Asia.”

Read more: KBS joins the Public Media Alliance

The Yoon administration is seeking to discontinue the collection of KBS’s current license fees by the Korea Electric Power Corporation, or KEPCO, working as a surrogate.

Combining TV license fees and electricity charges into one outstanding balance has allowed for stable financial operation of the public broadcaster since 1994.

The presidential office on Monday recommended that relevant ministries revise regulations to separate TV license fees from electricity bills, citing its earlier survey that found strong public support for such a change.

The top office conducted the survey for a month from March 9 and the results showed nearly 97 percent of respondents support separating television license fees from electricity bills.

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Kim Eui-chul
Kim Eui-Chul is the President & CEO of KBS. Credit: KBS

Kim says that the survey was unfair.

[Sound bite: KBS President and CEO Kim Eui-cheol (Korean-English)]
“While providing the background of the public debate on March 9, the presidential office omitted the meaning and significance of license fees, as well as the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court rulings that recognised the validity and effectiveness of the combined collection [of license fees].

“As reported by a news agency, there was a procedural issue of possible multiple voting.”

The main opposition Democratic Party has criticized the administration, saying that it is attempting to turn KBS and other public broadcasters government-friendly by throttling their financial lifeline.

KBS charges a monthly fee of two-thousand-500 won, or less than two dollars, to households. If the fee is charged separately from invoices other than the KEPCO electricity bills, many households are expected to refuse to pay.