[EDITORIAL] Questionable Appointment at MBC

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[EDITORIAL] Questionable Appointment at MBC

One cannot stress too much that media reform must be voluntary.

The position of broadcasters and newspapers in society lies in their role of critic and watchdog for the public in relation to the government and political power while solving their own problems. In order to achieve this goal, fair personnel policies for news companies' key positions is of utmost importance. In the case of broadcasters, the appointment of the president and executives of influential departments gives an important clue in predicting the direction of its reportage and commentary.

In this respect, the pronounced regional bias in public broadcasting companies is problematic. On Monday, the Grand National Party pointed out in the National Assembly, "In the Korea Broadcasting System, five out of 10 directors and above are from one region as well as 20 out of 49 bureau chiefs on the editing and reporting desks." However, a bigger problem than the internal dominance of those from one region is Cholla's monopoly on the heads of public broadcasters. With the appointment of Kim Joong-bae from Kwangju as the new president of Munhwa Broadcasting Company, the two pillars of Korean public broadcasters, KBS and MBC, are now under the direction of persons from the Cholla provinces. Since 1993, the heads of MBC were chosen among those who rose through the ranks in the company.

This time around, however, an outsider landed the job at MBC, a development viewed with alarm even inside the company. Furthermore, the heads of the two public broadcasters are not professionals in the business, although they are respected journalists in their own right. In particular, Mr. Kim interpreted media reform as newspaper reform in the narrowest sense when he served as the co-leader of the People's Coalition for Media Reform advocacy group.

As can be seen in a statement issued Sunday by the MBC labor union, "It is a reality that broadcasters may be used simply as a tool for newspaper reform in the era of so-called media reform," many people will watch closely whether the new head will set out to reform broadcasting or to play the role of henchman and advocate for newspaper reform. Public broadcasters should keep in mind that the public is suspicious of their missionary zeal in creating a climate for newspaper reform. We hope that Mr. Kim's strong reform-mindedness will play a positive role in changing MBC for the better.
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