(ATTN: UPDATES with KBS' response)
SEOUL, June 5 (Yonhap) -- The presidential office said Monday it has recommended collecting the license fee for state broadcaster KBS separately from the electricity bill amid overwhelming public support.
The recommendation was sent to the Korea Communications Commission, the state broadcasting watchdog, and the industry ministry, calling for an amendment to relevant laws and the implementation of follow-up measures.
KBS has charged a monthly fee of 2,500 won (US$1.91) to households on top of their electricity bills since 1994. The fee has been collected by state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp.
The presidential office said it held a public debate on the license fee collection method for one month starting March 9. Participants could take part in the debate through a vote or by leaving comments on a discussion board.
In the vote, 97 percent of the 58,251 participants called for improving the current method. In the comments, about 38,000 of the 64,000 opinions called for abolishing the license fee, while around 20,000, or 31.5 percent, called for collecting the license fee separately. The percentage of opinions calling for keeping the current method came to 0.5 percent.
"The reasons given included the opinion that the fee is effectively the same as a tax, and that the viewer's right to choose broadcasting channels and decide whether to pay a license fee was ignored," Kang Seung-kyoo, senior presidential secretary for civil society, told reporters.
"There was criticism that the role and values of a public broadcaster fell short of public expectations," he said.
In a statement, KBS expressed opposition to the separation, saying it is a "critical issue" that could damage the foundation of public broadcasting.
"The combined collection of the license fee is the most efficient means of collection for maintaining public broadcasting at a minimum cost," it said, noting that thorough and sufficient discussions are required before changing the collection method.
The broadcaster also said it is time for social discussions on public broadcasting's changed role and revenue systems in a changed media environment, rather than separating the collection of license fees, which raises concerns of "serious social side effects."
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