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Arrest warrant denied for broadcasting watchdog chief over alleged score rigging in cable channel relicensing

All News 00:47 March 30, 2023

SEOUL, March 30 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court on Thursday denied the arrest warrant for the chief of the state broadcasting regulator who is being investigated for suspected score manipulation during the 2020 broadcasting license renewal for a cable TV channel.

Prosecutors requested the pretrial warrant last week to detain Korea Communications Commission (KCC) Chairman Han Sang-hyuk, on charges of involvement in deliberately giving low scores to TV Chosun, a right-leaning cable channel, during its license renewal evaluation process three years ago.

The Seoul Northern District Court rejected the request, saying there still remain contentions regarding major allegations against the suspect and that placing him under arrest may excessively limit his right to defend himself.

Han was appointed to the post by former liberal President Moon Jae-in.

Han Sang-hyuk, chairman of the Korea Communications Commission, answers reporters' questions before attending his arrest warrant hearing at the Seoul Northern District Court in the capital on March 29, 2023. (Yonhap)

Han Sang-hyuk, chairman of the Korea Communications Commission, answers reporters' questions before attending his arrest warrant hearing at the Seoul Northern District Court in the capital on March 29, 2023. (Yonhap)

Two former KCC officials and a professor who chaired the license review panel were earlier arrested and indicted in connection with the score manipulation allegations.

Han is suspected of instructing them to lower the final evaluation score of TV Chosun.

Han has denied all charges against him.

"I'll do my best to prove my innocence. Any instruction to change the score was not included in the arrest warrant request, and I also deny the suspicion that I turned a blind eye despite knowing about the changed score," Han told reporters before the start of the court hearing held Wednesday.

He also reaffirmed his determination to keep his KCC chairmanship.

During the review, TV Chosun received 653.39 points, barely passing the 650-point threshold for the renewal of cable channel licenses, resulting in a conditional approval.

The network got low scores in key categories, such as responsible and objective broadcasting.

Last year, the state audit agency notified the prosecution that the review panel members had intentionally lowered their evaluation scores for TV Chosun.

ycm@yna.co.kr
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