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(News Focus) Yonhap set to boost national competitiveness via cable news channel
SEOUL, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's cable television news market is expected to undergo sweeping upheavals, as the government is scheduled to issue one more license for cable news channel by the end of this year to promote competition with two existing operators.

   The Korea Communication Commission said Thursday that a consortium led by Yonhap News Agency, South Korea's key news service, and four others presented applications for the new cable television news channel by the Dec. 1 deadline.

  
Jang Ik-sang (L), head of Yonhap News Agency's planning and management department, presents the company's application for cable television news channel license to the Korea Communication Commission in Seoul on Dec. 1. (Yonhap)


Local media experts generally share the view that a successful bid by Yonhap News, widely seen as the front-runner in the race for the cable news service license, will surely help enhance the nation's information sovereignty and better satisfy the public's right to know, particularly in this era of digital revolution.

   Yonhap News is South Korea's largest news provider, producing content for newspapers, broadcasters, Internet portals, the government and private enterprises on a scale of about 3,000 news articles per day, the largest volume by far among local news organizations.

   With a pool of some 550 reporters, Yonhap's coverage consists of a wide variety of multimedia news content, from articles and photos to video and graphics. With services additionally offered in six foreign languages -- English, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish and French, Yonhap is also the key source of news on Korea for the international community.

   "Today, news agencies are required to secure as many news videos as possible that can be widely used in various platforms, like mobile and Internet services," said Kim Sung-tae, a journalism professor at Korea University, during a recent seminar organized by the Korean Society for Journalism & Communication Studies.

   "The focus of the media environment is rapidly changing from text to video. Against such a backdrop, it is very important to devise measures to ensure that news consumers will better benefit from the introduction of a new (cable television) news channel."

   Lee Wan-soo, a mass communications professor at Dongseo University in Busan, said Yonhap News now faces a lot of challenges with the expanding influence of portals, the convergence of broadcasting and communications, and newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership. The professor then asked Yonhap to lessen its dependence on text-centered news and to make greater efforts to develop various types of news content for broadcasting and communications services.

   Park Jung-chan, president and CEO of Yonhap News, also stressed that Yonhap should advance into the cable television news service in order to further increase its contribution to public interest.

   "Yonhap News puts a top priority on national interests. We aim to build a global news channel that will correspond to Korea's status as one of the world's 10 largest economies," said Park.

   With mobile Internet fast becoming the most important new media tool in the industry, Yonhap has been actively engaged in tapping the potential offered by such innovations. Yonhap's nine-hour live Web cast has been available to passengers onboard Korea's high-speed KTX railway as well as to the country's IPTV viewers.

   Through partnerships with local mobile operators, Yonhap has developed applications that come built-in to standard mobile phones and an innovative messaging service that allows for breaking information to be sent out to subscribers via text message.

   "Yonhap's news channel will have a number of unrivaled advantages over competitors, due to a network of more than 60 overseas correspondents in 46 areas worldwide, as well as the nation's most extensive coverage of domestic news as well as news services in six different foreign languages," said Ryu Hyun-sung, a media news editor at Yonhap.

   Media experts also noted that Yonhap is one step ahead of other candidate consortiums for a cable news license in terms of independence from industrial capital and political power.

   In 2003, the National Assembly enacted a special law designating Yonhap as the country's key news service. In accordance with the new law, a public entity known as the News Agency Promotion Foundation was formed and became the agency's largest shareholder. Yonhap's top management is selected through open recruiting by the foundation, ensuring a commitment to fair and impartial news reporting and independence from specific interest groups.

   ycm@yna.co.kr
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