Saturday, October 13, 2012

Convergence, media regulation and the KCC

Convergence is a big buzzword in the ICT sector and related high technology fields these days.   Yesterday I had a personal experience with convergence.   I was driving to Kangwon-do when the U.S. vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan aired live on CNN, so was unable to watch the live telecast as planned.  Later in the evening, after returning home, I was surfing the web, catching up on my morning news reading and noticed that The Washington Post had a "View the entire debate" button, so I was able to watch the entire debate, direct and unfiltered, right there and then, courtesy of the newspaper.  Was I watching television or reading a newspaper?  This is convergence.
Upon his inauguration in 2008, President Lee Myung Bak undertook a sweeping reorganization and streamlining of government that included an experiment with converged regulation of telecommunications and broadcasting in the form of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC).   The government reorganization, which also included elimination of the powerful Ministry of Information and Communication, was widely criticized.  That criticism seems to be increasing as President Lee's term draws to an end.  A recent article in The Korea Times noted that the KCC "... seems to have lost near total control of regulating the volatile broadcasting and mobile market." It went on to suggest that a drastic reshuffle can be expected next year with the inauguration of a new government and even speculated that government regulation may again be divided into sectors, such as mobile and broadcasting. I would simply comment that separation of regulation into sectors, in the face of the concrete reality of convergence, hardly seems like a solution to the problem. In fact, it was the separation of broadcasting and telecommunications regulation that led to formation of the KCC in the first place. This will be an interesting story to follow, especially because the convergence of digital media in Korea is arguably further along than in any other national market.

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