[VIEWPOINT] Broadcasting Must Be Reformed
TV broadcasting programs have fallen into a swamp of sensational, inflammatory and suggestive material and are sinking deeper and deeper everyday. Even public broadcasting companies are joining the ratings competition, and there is criticism that broadcasting has been degraded to a medium dealing only with gossip about entertainers.
Even more cynically, broadcasting is said to be by the stars, for the stars and of the stars. That may be why the male, adult and senior citizen population is no longer watching TV. What drove broadcasting to this lamentable condition? It is certainly related to attempts at improving the system by the Korean Broadcasting Commission, which was established under the new Broadcasting Act.
About one year has passed since the new Broadcasting Act was promulgated and terrestrial, cable and satellite broadcasters are regulated as a group. The new law indeed made important progress, embracing the needs of our time by establishing regulations protecting the rights and interests of viewers better than the old law. However, the most important goal of the law, guaranteeing the independence of broadcasters, has not yet been implemented. The Korean Broadcasting Commission, which manages all broadcasting policies, acts jointly with the Minister of Culture and Tourism to settle issues raised in broadcasting, according to article 27 of the Broadcasting Act. Article 20 of the enforcement decree said that basic policies such as establishing broadcasting systems and changing the structure of broadcasting firms must be decided in consultation with the culture and tourism minister.
Without a doubt, such clauses were inserted to let the government intervene in broadcasting policies in general. They clearly reflect the will of the government and the ruling party and are the product of political compromise. Those clauses must be revised. But waiting for a revision is too passive a reaction. The commission should do more to guarantee the independence of broadcasters. It is a way to ensure the independence of the commission and advance the cause of revising the law.
Another serious problem was revealed after one year of enforcing the new Broadcasting Act. When selecting commission members, the appointments tend to be made by dividing positions among political factions. Consequently, some unqualified persons were appointed, degrading the authority and reputation of the commission and drawing criticism for their ineptness in making and implementing broadcasting policies.
Unless there are reforms in the practice by political factions of considering appointments as commissioners as spoils awarded to them, it is impossible to expect the commission to function as it was intended to. Political reform is also an urgent requirement. Unless political circles shift their way of thinking, the method of organizing the Korean Broadcast-ing Commission under the current law is destined to miss the goal.
It may be too much to expect significant changes only after a year of enforcing the new law. Until now, the commission has to make many important decisions on policies, including the selection of satellite broadcasting business operators, although its organizational structure was not firmly established. There was some trial and error, and we must give some allowance to the commission, which had to resolve some difficult issues at the same time it was trying to set itself up.
But most of all, broadcasting which is tending more and more toward mere frivolity should be brought under control, and public broadcasting companies, at least, should not compete for ratings in order to accommodate citizens who want more substantive content. We expect the Korean Broadcasting Commission to improve the system by supporting public broadcasters financially: ensuring that receiving fees are collected and ensuring a stable supply of advertising.
The writer is a professor at the School of Communications, Hallym University.
by Yu Jae-cheon