On January 20, 2021, the Ministry of Science and ICT (the “MSIT”) and the Korea Communications Commission (the “KCC”) each announced their respective key business plans for 2021. The business plans, which summarize the main policy objectives and tasks for the year, can be used to forecast the direction of broadcasting and communications policies.
The MSIT and KCC have been proposing various policy goals such as strengthening the media’s public responsibility and fostering a fair and collaborative digital environment in conjunction with the growth and promotion of digital platforms. In particular, the MSIT and KCC have hinted at enactments of, and amendments to, laws and regulations on (i) platforms and media, (ii) network stability and improving the network use environment, and (iii) the location information industry, which will have a direct impact on related businesses. Furthermore, regulations to protect users and eliminate illegal distribution of digital information are expected to be strengthened. Please see below for details.
1. Improvement of Platform and Media Regulations
In the second half of 2021, the MSIT plans to formulate a “mid- to long-term legal reform plan regarding broadcast media” based on the principle of minimizing regulations on over-the-top (“OTT”) media services and relaxing regulations on paid broadcasting, which suggests an impending overhaul of the overall regulatory regime on paid broadcasting, including OTT. In addition, a government-wide “mid- to long-term platform policy plan” will be established by June 2021 to promote the development of global online platforms. In accordance with the amendments to the Enforcement Decree of the Telecommunications Business Act (the “TBA”), the MSIT will also conduct a fact-finding survey on the relevant business operators within the first quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, the KCC plans to enact the Audiovisual Media Services Act in 2021 to introduce the concept of “audiovisual media services,” which encompasses broadcasting and OTT. Further, comprehensive regulations that govern, among others, terrestrial broadcasting, paid broadcasting platforms, and paid program providers (PP) and OTT will also be introduced.
2. Improvement of Network Stability and Network Environment
In accordance with the amendment to the TBA that took effect in December 2020, the MSIT decided to impose obligations on major platform operators (i.e., those that significantly affect the daily lives of citizens) to provide stable services. In this regard, the KCC is planning to propose an amendment to the TBA in June 2021 to (i) prohibit execution of discriminatory network usage contracts between business operators and (ii) establish legal grounds for conducting fact-finding surveys on network usage.
3. Reinforced Policies and Regulations Regarding User Protection
As online platforms (e.g., app stores and e-commerce sites) become more influential, the KCC plans to establish regulations that protect platform users, as well as review whether OTT, live commerce and other new platforms should also be subject to its user protection evaluation in light of increasing user complaints. The KCC also plans to promote amendment bills during this year that are intended to reduce harm to users in cases of communication failures and reinforce the management responsibilities of telecommunication companies (i.e., mobile carriers). Further, the KCC will improve the statutory damages system and reduce standard notification times from four hours to two hours in cases of suspension of value-added telecommunications services.
4. Reinforced Countermeasures to Illegal Distribution of Digital Information
The KCC will preemptively respond to the spread of illegal digital information by providing a standard database that can be used to filter digital sex crime materials, and impose stronger sanctions such as administrative fines if business operators do not fulfill their obligations to delete digital sex crime materials and implement measures to prevent their distribution. In the first quarter of 2021, the KCC is investigating whether the relevant business operators have designated employees responsible for preventing distribution of illegal filmed content (the KCC will provide education and training for these responsible employees after June 2021), and whether the obligation to submit transparency reports has been fulfilled. In November 2021, the KCC will evaluate major overseas business operators on their efforts to minimize user harm and prevent distribution of illegal information and publicly disclose the results of such evaluation.
5. Improvement of Regulations on Location Information Industry
The KCC plans to relax the requirement to qualify as a location information business under the Location Information Protection Act by changing the current requirement for a permit to a simple registration. The amendment will also strengthen user protection by imposing administrative fines and corrective orders against registered business operators if they fail to fulfill their legal obligations. Further, the KCC will audit the protective measures implemented by location information providers.
As set forth above, significant changes are expected to be made to the laws and policies that concern broadcasting and telecommunications businesses, including platform and media. Therefore, business operators should continue to monitor the situation and prepare for the changes.