Community Radios, For Whom?

Korean Broadcasting Commission's Research of Demand before the Official Launching of Community Radios. Community radios are now on the first stage in Korea. For the last 3 years, eight community radio stations have been running on pilot broadcasting. But the official launching has been postponed due to the delay of legal procedure and technological problems. KBC's original plan was to start official community radios in 2006 after one-year of pilot broadcasting in 2005. KBC has recently announced that they would permit regular community radios in 2008. They started with holding several hearings and forums. However, KBC's approach written on "Policy on Community Radios" gives a lot of anxiety to radio groups. The most serious problem is about frequency bands. KBC's paper, "Research of demand for available frequency bands" sets a limit that if community radio groups cannot find a frequency band by themselves, they cannot apply for the business. It is a very difficult work for a small radio group to search and secure their frequency band in Korea where analogue frequency bands are very scarce. Media activists have demanded the solution of this problem for years, but KBC has ignored it. Now KBC tries to avoid responsibility and put the burden on the individual radio group. The standard for selecting radio groups is also a problem. The main condition is, the groups have to secure enough financial resources and get support from local government. It is harsh for the nonprofit small-size local radios. If the standard gets accepted, lots of small radios will not be able to launch their services. Even if some radios can survive, most of them will fall to be broadcasters for promotion of rich groups and local governments. The present community radio policy can be summarized into one phrase, "No Support, Regulations Only". KBC has announced that they will cut the fund they have provided for the pilot community radios, in spite of the fact that official financial support is necessary for the running of the nonprofit, public interest-based radios. Not only financial problem but also output limit is another urgent obstacle to jump over. KBC does not accept 10w output range while 10w is legally permitted. Jamming is their excuse. In this situation, solutions to strengthen community radios are urgent now that neo-liberalism has been threatening public interest of media. Recently, communication radio groups have begun to organize actions to protest against KBC's policy, in solidarity with media activists. They issued a statement against KBC's research of demand and held an emergent forum to discuss how to resist KBC's plan. 2008 will be a significant year for the future of community radios in Korea. by CHAE-EUN PARK, staff of policy & research dept. in MEDIACT Trans. by Moon-a