[OUTLOOK]World Cup broadcasting overdone

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[OUTLOOK]World Cup broadcasting overdone

The World Cup that had the whole country rejoicing and captured the world's attention has come to an end amidst much acclamation and admiration, both from within and out of Korea. In evaluations of the World Cup, there seems to be nothing but praise. The elevated atmosphere is such that any criticism, even well-founded, concerning the inevitable blemishes that are to be found in such mammoth events, will not be stood for.

In such a glowing atmosphere one should remain cool-headed and critical in one's judgment of the past, and prepare for an even better future. Burying the opportunity of self-examination under the shouts of euphoria is not a sign of maturity. What must be criticized and corrected should be done for the promise of a better future.

One of the important duties we must perform is reviewing the behavior of our broadcasting media in its coverage of the World Cup. In short: The World Cup's broadcasting coverage was way overdone.

All channels without exception relayed all 64 games of the World Cup finals simultaneously, and repeatedly showed matches over and over, depriving the viewers their rights to watch anything other than soccer matches. What else could such one-sided programming without consideration for the viewers be called except tyrannical?

KBS, the state-run broadcasting company that owns two channels, even sent out the same reruns of Korea's matches on both channels at the same time. Such redundancy is useless. Korea was the only country in the world that had all the television channels showing all the World Cup final games live. Even in Japan, the World Cup co-hosts, only NHK broadcast the entire World Cup, and other channels selectively covered the games under agreement.

Why did our television broadcasters do what they did? They did it because the overriding emphasis is on achieving a good audience rating. Pushed by the fears of poor ratings should they omit any games while the others didn't, broadcasters rushed to cover all the matches.

That is why all broadcasters had to pay for all the coverage rights of the matches. The total amount that the three Korean broadcasting companies paid for the game coverage was 44 billion won ($35 million).

Showing matches over and over was the least the broadcasters could do to get their money's worth out of their deals.

Not only were viewers robbed of their rights, but even the local elections were buried in the shadow of the World Cup. Although not proved by scientific research, it is believed that the low voting turnout of less than 50 percent was due as much to the concentration of the media coverage on the World Cup as the resignation people felt about politics. Indeed, 73 percent of the main television news programs during the World Cup season until the local elections on June 13 was about soccer, and only 10 percent was about the elections. When the news programs were shifted around and were shortened to fit match schedules, showing nothing but World Cup news, television viewers in Korea had little access to other news during the month of June.

This isn't to say that the World Cup coverage was well done. Broadcasters, who should not have given exaggerated significance to the results of the matches in a competition emphasizing international friendship and goodwill, made exaggerated comments connecting the results to the entire fate of a country concerned.

While it is the duty of the announcers and the commentators to refrain from using exaggeration and strong words, and to deliver comments in a fair manner, many cases of heated comments were heard on the air including ones objecting referees' calls. Words that could potentially have turned the peaceful crowd of cheering people into angry rioters were sent out on the air without any consideration.

There was even an incident of a radio program causing a nationwide uproar with a phony announcement that the Korean team had advanced to the finals instead of the Germans who were found to have been tested positive for drugs. Such "freak" accidents come from having people without even the basics working in the broadcasting media.

A lesson we have learned all too well this World Cup is that commercialism can uniformly standardize broadcasting as much as a dictatorship can.

We should not stand for such behavior from our broadcasting media. The bigger the influence of broadcasting, the more broadcasters should be made to be responsible. It is time for the owners of the broadcasting media -- the public -- to stand up and put a stop to the contempt broadcasters are showing toward viewers.


The writer is the vice-president of Hallym University.

by Yu Jae-cheon

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