Media Galapagos
Media Galapagos
  • Reporter Lee Mi-yeon
  • 승인 2019.04.24 13:10
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▲Illustration by Raj Verma
▲Illustration by Raj Verma


A group of lawmakers has set out to strengthen the regulation of foreign internet companies operating in Korea, responding to complaints that they are not bound by the same laws that apply to Korean films. 

Ten lawmaker’s proposed four bills aimed at “creating a level-playing ground” and resolving the reverse discrimination problem in Korea’s information and communication technology sector. Among them is an amendment to the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection, mandating foreign internet companies like Google, Facebook, and Netflix to install physical servers within Korea. The bill was introduced in response to an incident last year in which Korean users experienced a slowdown with Facebook’s services due to a spat between the social network operator and local telecom companies, as they negotiated network maintenance and operational cost arrangements. This case reignited persistent criticism that global Internet-based service operators, despite generating massive user traffic in Korea and reaping high profits, have benefited from a lack of regulatory surveillance because their servers are based overseas. 

The 10 lawmakers also proposed an amendment to the internet Multimedia Broadcast Services Act that would define and set up regulations for over the top (OTT) media service platforms such as YouTube and Netflix. Korea currently lacks regulations for OTT services, and thus the industry has remained largely unregulated. This situation had sparked fairness complaints from traditional paid broadcast service providers. The proposed bill sets a definition of OTT services and claims jurisdiction over companies’ actions, even if performed overseas if they impact the Korean market or users. 

In terms of mobile access, the number of people who use Netflix apps reached about 900,000 in September, a threefold increase from the previous year, while other platforms witnessed a minor increase. In comparison, Pooq, another video streaming service run by the country’s three terrestrial broadcasters, increased only by about 30 percent. Consequently, the streaming platform’s remarkable growth has prompted concerns that they would see a collapse in the pay-TV market similar to the one in the UK. The number of British people subscribed to the streaming platforms has exceeded those who pay for the traditional satellite and cable services. The UK opened up its market to Netflix without such a platform of its own. 

Galapagos, an island in the middle of the vast ocean, is where life evolved independently and different plants and animals exist. In another sense, the term is a negative expression of isolation from the global market by insisting on their own standards and systems. There are deep concerns that South Korea’s paid-broadcasting industry will become a Galapagos. Already, the broadcasting industry is famous for its overlapping regulations. Furthermore, the National Assembly is discussing whether to revive the combined regulation of the field. Combined regulation means that the number of subscribers of paid broadcasting services should not exceed one-third of the total market. The media market has already changed. It has already become ridiculous to question the monopoly of paid broadcasting. It should be recognized that it has become more important to keep the media self-reliant and responsive to powerful platforms such as YouTube and Netflix.

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