Culture Minister's Questionable Pledge

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Culture Minister's Questionable Pledge

Culture and Tourism Minister Park Jie-won has said he would risk his ministership in his passion to drive sensationalism and violence out of radio and television programs. In a luncheon with the cultural heads of Korean news media yesterday, Minister Park said, "Sensationalism and violence in broadcasting programs have long passed a socially tolerable level. I am prepared to lose my position in my fight to banish them." Eager to put a stress on his determination, he reportedly kept repeating that he would stake his position on the issue.

We are completely in agreement with Minister Park with regard to his observation that sensationalism and violence in radio and television programs have already passed dangerous levels. With escalating competition over viewer ratings, programs for teenagers cannot be sold to TV audiences unless they contain sex and violence.

Nevertheless, it is our judgment that Minister Park's bravado in proclaiming his overriding determination to stamp out the declining standards on TV is an act of arrogance. The Korea Broadcasting Committee (KBC) was launched as an independent supervisory organ according to the Integrated Broadcasting Act. When the minister of culture and tourism comes forward and vows to remedy broadcasts, his action infringes upon the independence of the KBC. It would not be unfair to suspect that the government intends to keep control over broadcasting companies using the excuse that it seeks to 'purify programming'. As it is, the enforcement ordinance of the Integrated Broadcasting Act specifies five wide areas that require the KBC to consult with the minister of culture and tourism, and there are protests that the requirement may threaten the independence of the KBC. Minister Park's words only fan the flames of controversy over KBC's independence.

It may have been a matter of coincidence, but only hours after Minister Park's declaration, the KBC summoned the heads of three aerial broadcasting TV companies and adopted a "self-cleansing resolution" to drive out sensationalism and violence from programs. We felt as if we have gone back to the Chun Doo-hwan regime of the early 1980s. Then, when a powerful figure said something, people moved in concert to carry out his wishes. If the KBC does not wish to be condemned as puppet of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, it should have voluntarily and proactively prepared effective and strong measures against problematic programming. The KBC must no longer pander weakly to the wishes of government.

by Eum Sung-jik

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