S. Korea aims to show off its indies on tyro channel

SEOUL — South Korea will establish a new terrestrial channel showcasing programming from independent production companies and modeled on Blighty’s advertising-funded pubcaster Channel 4.

The channel is the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s latest attempt to invigorate the local TV production industry.

The major nets, including the state-controlled Korean Broadcasting System, the hybrid public/private Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. and the privately owned Seoul Broadcasting System, produce their own shows, creating an insular world of TV production and broadcasting under one roof.

It also means they have heavily tilted in their favor any deals for content they buy from outside sources.

Last year, outside productions constituted 35% of programming per the government-set quota, but cost only 12% of the broadcasters’ production budgets.

Popular TV series “Full House” racked up $3.3 million in ad sales for KBS but left its producer Kim Jong Hak Production in red ink. “Lovers in Paris” recorded $4.1 million in ad sales for SBS, but its producer Castle in the Sky Entertainment barely broke even, thanks to product placements.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism wants to rectify the imbalance.

By establishing a new terrestrial channel as an exclusive outlet for outside productions, it hopes to facilitate more equitable agreements between broadcasters and independent producers.

Plans call for $45 million to be poured into the project, with eight hours of broadcasting per day in the first year, expanding to 14 hours per day in the second year. A committee to set up the project, which has no start date, will be formed early next year.

Television regulator the Korean Broadcasting Commission opposes the idea, arguing that another terrestrial channel would encroach on an already lackluster ad market.

“The problem is not the lack of an appropriate channel but unfair contracts between broadcasters and outside producers,” the commission said in a statement.

It has offered to draft stricter guidelines to ensure more equitable contracts.