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[seoul] South Korea's biggest marketers are vying to win licenses to own satellite TV channels when the government opens up the country's first digital satellite broadcasting July 1.

In a controversial move, Samsung, Hyundai, Daewoo and LG-Korea's four largest conglomerates, or chaebols-have all applied for licenses.

So far, only the state-run Korea Broadcasting System has been granted a license-for two channels of the 24 available for digital satellite broadcasting. The government has not yet decided who will get the rest.

The chaebols have already developed a taste for media ownership. All four conglomerates have invested in cable TV, which began operating last year in South Korea.

"We have not reached any decision yet," said a Ministry of Information & Communications official who asked not to be identified. "We are still gathering opinions from the public, analysts and scholars."

The ministry expects the satellite broadcasting bill will be passed by the end of June. But analysts say there may be heated debate in the National Assembly over whether the chaebols-which already are very wealthy-should be awarded the lucrative broadcast licenses.

Samsung, South Korea's largest corporate group, with revenues of $80 billion last year, owns two cable channels, Catch One and Channel Q.

LG Information & Communications Co., a telecommunications unit of LG, owns a home shopping channel and has been taking the lead in developing advanced telecommunications technology.

Hyundai owns HBS, an entertainment channel, and Daewoo operates a popular movie channel called DCN.

South Korean newspaper publishers also are eyeing the broadcast industry. Major daily newspapers, including Dong-A Daily, Joong Ang Daily and Chosun Daily, all want to enter digital satellite broadcasting to avoid being shut out of fast-paced news delivery in the future.

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