President's TV Interview: Waste of Space

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President's TV Interview: Waste of Space

Two nights ago many a viewer must have wondered what era we are living in. All three network television stations - KBS, MBC, and SBS - aired a special interview with the president for one hour from 9:50 p.m. The interview was recorded at Chong Wa Dae on the previous day, and the stations put aside their regular programs to broadcast the same interview. This incident reminded us of the early 1980s when President Chun Doo-hwan's activities were featured every day as the top news.

Each of the three stations had requested an exclusive interview with the president on the occasion of Broadcasting Day. Faced with a difficult situation, Chong Wa Dae offered an alternative - a joint recorded interview.

If interviewers had asked the president what the public would like to know, it would not have mattered whether the interview was joint or exclusive. Many viewers point out, however, that the interview seemed like a public relations exercise because the running theme was the regime's achievements in inter-Korean relations and the economy, rather than the issues that the public is really concerned with. It is no wonder some viewers remembered President Chun's days when broadcasting was a public relations vehicle for the government.

Of course, the president disclosed his position on some issues of public interest, such as his intention to adjust the speed of North Korea policy or his prospects for the medical reform. No questions, however, were asked on other issues that the public is keen to know about: suspicions concerning the ruling party's role in investigating election campaign expenditures and the Hanvit Bank loan scandal, in which some confidants of the president are suspected to have been involved.

The outcome may have been predictable from the form itself - a joint recorded interview. Then why did they hold an interview in the first place? The labor unions of the three stations have already protested that the simultaneous broadcasting of the public relations material reflected an outdated mentality and was a waste of the airwaves.

If a joint interview was unavoidable, it should have been live. If a live interview had been impossible, at least the form of free questions and answers should have been adopted, instead of a fine-tuned series of carefully prepared questions and answers. If the stations had known what would happen and failed to assert their protest, they cannot escape accusations of having an incestuous relationship with the government, as was the case during President Chun's administration.

The airwaves belong to the general public, not to certain groups or individuals. That was why the Korean Broadcasting Commission was established as an independent organ. The Commission must issue a warning to the network television stations for having limited the viewing public's choice and having wasted precious broadcasting space.

by Huh Eui-do

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