[OUTLOOK]Public broadcasters betray usFor the past two and a half years, the Korea Broadcasting System and Munhwa Broadcasting Corp., which are public stations, have faithfully played the role of mouthpieces who one-sidedly support the governing Uri Party and the government. The broadcasters have taken the side of the Uri Party in its battles with rival conservative parties. As a result, the two public broadcasters have ended up confusing and dividing national opinion.
Clearly, it is not the role of a broadcaster to bring water to a player who is sure to lose after a few knock- downs and help him stand up again to win the game. But the two outlets have been repeatedly siding with the governing party and have protected the present administration. Going beyond resentment at the behavior, a considerable number of people are now mired in frustration and despair. In particular, KBS has become so peculiar that the people are worrying whether the world is running in reverse.
KBS and MBC, which have become public broadcasters in name only, are valuable resources for the present administration. Because they saved the president from the impeachment and turned the minority ruling party to a majority one, the broadcasters became strong comrades and supports of the government. This is to say that the public broadcasters volunteered to play the role of sustaining the government.
Strangely, in our country, public broadcasters became “partisan” broadcasters and private broadcasters, public ones. A relatively new private broadcaster narrowly escaped a mishap of being deprived of its broadcasting privileges while being neutral and objective. Compared to this, KBS and MBC are so biased that it is doubtful if they meet the basic requirements for broadcasters.
Whether public or private, broadcasters are required to be steadfastly neutral when it comes to political conflict and confrontation. But the public broadcasting companies have betrayed the duty of broadcasters that should be adhered to even if it threatens their existence.
Who is able now to return these public broadcasters to their original place? And is this possible at all? This is a major issue for Korean society.
In this country, public broadcast stations are ruled by little Napoleons. What does this mean? Editors try to figure out what lay reporters are thinking, and now labor union leaders have advanced to editorial posts and into top management. These people are filled with a false aspiration to become “revolutionaries” who can establish a new republic without flaw or blemish.
Their “courage” to measure the past with today’s yardstick is surprising indeed. The age of “little heroes” is here.
On the other hand, how is our country doing? The economy is falling into long-term recession. How hard their livelihood must have been that 10,000 people committed suicide over a year.
There may have been many causes, but it is clear that they did not end their lives out of boredom of happiness like in the welfare countries of North Europe.
And the sophistry over balanced regional development is creating a crisis of national disintegration. Shadows of uncertainty can be seen in the sad eyes of the people. How much responsibility should the public broadcasters take for this?
What our people want is nothing more or less than political neutrality from broadcasters. We do not particularly want them to produce more popular television dramas like “Haeshin” or “God of the Sea.”
Objective reports will be enough. Public broadcasters should take responsibility for siding with a particular party, or conducting negative campaigns against a party. Considering that they dig up past affairs so easily, the broadcasters, since they are not politicians, probably will not pretend that what they did in the past “did not exist.”
While their income ranges to the highest bracket in our society, the heads of our public broadcasters are filled with radical views.
Some executives in the broadcasting companies are reportedly paid almost 100 million won ($100,000) a year, an amount that places them in the highest 10 percent of households.
Seeing the difficult livelihood of the common people, frankly, I would like to ask KBS if the company has any intention to give its revenues of tens of billions of won from viewers’ fees to the bereaved families of those who committed suicide, to homeless people and to the unemployed.
In a situation where ordinary people cannot even pay their taxes, KBS is talking about increasing viewers’ fees and allowing advertisements in the middle of programs to raise its revenues.
Isn’t the word shamelessness made to be used on this occasion?
* The writer is a professor of mass communications at Kangwon National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Kwan-youl