[FORUM]Show the history, look at todayIt was not only the fact that last week was the 20th anniversary of the terror bombing incident at the Aung San National Cemetery of Burma. Seventeen members of the Korean delegation, including cabinet members and staff of President Chun Doo Hwan, were killed in the attack during his visit to Burma. But I had a sudden idea; I’d been reminded by the German television station ARD’s “News of 20 Years Ago” program of something I had had seen on our public television in the past.
Although it may not sound as familiar as Britain’s BBC or Japan’s NHK, ARD is also a highly renowned public television station. A station jointly operated by nine local broadcasting companies, this station has no main studio or headquarters buildings of its own. Instead, the eight-o’clock news is sent from, say, Hapsburg and the midday news is sent from perhaps Munich.
This form of operation, which reflects the decentralization of Germany, gives us much to think about its “software” as well as its “hardware.” One of the biggest lessons we could learn from ARD is the “News of 20 Years Ago” program.
RBB, one of the co-operators in ARD, is in charge of Berlin and Brandenburg. It airs this program late at night.
The amusing thing is that because ARD was formed by combining the West Berlin stations and the former East German public television station, they send out the West German and East German news of 20 years respectively. The West German news was as objective at the time as it is today, but the East German news was always filled with praise for its Communist leader. You can often see Erich Honecker’s image holding a red flag and waving at adoring crowds.
It is interesting to see how the same news could be reported so differently. For example, the “News of 20 Years Ago” edition that I last saw in Berlin was about the World Youth Festival that was staged by the East Germans in May, 1983. While the West German news calmly depicted only events organized by the students, the East German news concentrated their broadcasting on student protests against the U.S. troops and nuclear weapons positioned in West Germany.
If our television stations were to broadcast such news, what would happen? For example, let’s imagine the 9 p.m. news of 20 years ago on October 10. (This may not be entirely accurate, but you can get the idea.)
With the opening scene, the first headline news would be a sympathy piece for President Chun Doo Hwan, who barely escaped an attempt on his life in a terrorist bomb attack at the Aung San cemetery. Then the news that followed would be filled with denunciations of the atrocity by North Korea.
But our television stations nowadays bare and attack past mistakes of others as if they themselves had done nothing wrong in the past. In particular, KBS acts as if it were born in an antiseptic laboratory in its attacks on newspapers and the conservative forces in Korean society.
KBS has kept the No. 1 place for news ratings and was evaluated as having maintained relatively fair reporting during previous administration. Yet it has rarely seen a calm day under the present administration. It started to fight aginst the opposition party and some mainstream newspapers as soon as its new head, Jung Yun-joo, was appointed by the government; now it is involved in an all-out war over the criticism that its special documentary on the South Korean-born German sociologist Song Du-yul was slanted. Mr. Song is under investigation for allegedly having been an office-holding member of the North Korean Workers’ Party.
As a taxpayer who never fails to pay my viewer fee, I’d like to ask KBS with all due respect: Is this the way a public television station that is run by viewer fees, a tax, should be operated? Does KBS know how many people are disappointed and angry at it?
The foreign television network that NHK, the Japanese network, envies the most is, surprisingly, KBS. This is because of the crafty way that KBS charges its viewers as an addition to the electric bill that Koreans receive. But there is no guarantee that there won’t be another campaign to refuse to pay the fee. The Grand National Party wants the two fees separated.
That is why I would like to take this opportunity to advise KBS to try putting on such a program. Some people might criticize this as a return to the Cold War days, but 20 years is long enough for people to accept an event as history and not reality. It would be a living modern history textbook for the viewers, and such a program is bound to get high ratings as well. Most of all, this program would function as a reminder to KBS to reflect on its past ways and gain a sense of history.
* The writer is a deputy managing editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yoo Jae-sik