[VIEWPOINT]Networks’ indecency unprecedented

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[VIEWPOINT]Networks’ indecency unprecedented

A month of sporting excitement has ended with Italy winning the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and football festivities around the world are cooling down. At this point, we must address a problem that arose during the World Cup: all three major network television stations, KBS, MBC and SBS, all broadcast almost exactly the same 64 World Cup games, from the opening match to the final.
The networks in England, which claims to be the country where the sport originated, in the runner-up country France and in neighboring Japan as well as in Germany, host of the World Cup, thoroughly discussed the program schedules in advance and shared the broadcasting of the matches.
According to their plan, the network channels did not all broadcast the same match at the same time, and only one channel aired a match at any given time. In the case of Germany, only ZDF, a public service channel, broadcast the opening match between Germany and Costa Rica.
After the first match, ZDF and RTL, a private television channel, alternated the airing of the World Cup games.
In England, public television BBC and private ITV took turns broadcasting the World Cup.
In Japan, whose people were as crazed about the World Cup as Korea, the broadcasting rights of the major matches were divided between public NHK and other private stations. The private channels broadcast the World Cup matches in turn.
While the three Korean networks did negotiate to share the World Cup match broadcasts, each station insisted that it must air the major games, including the ones in which Korea played. The negotiations ruptured in the early stages, and all three stations decided to air all of the games to maximize their commercial revenue.
As a result, Korea became the only country in the world where the same World Cup games were aired live on three network channels simultaneously for a whole month.
It was an unprecedented indecency in the history of broadcasting and brought with it a lot of harm.
Most of all, the viewers were deprived of their rights to choose channels for a while. Especially on the days the Korean squad played, the three networks not only broadcast the game live at the same time but also programmed World Cup-related segments for 14 to 20 hours a day.
Many viewers complained that they were unable to watch any other programs. The stations were oblivious to the social standard demanded of network televisions, which says they should deliver a set of basic programs designed to satisfy the different interests of the viewers.
Social regulatory organizations such as the Korea Broadcasting Commission and its board of directors failed to fulfill their duty to supervise the networks.
The three network channels shared the astronomical fee of 25 billion won (26 million dollars) to broadcast the World Cup matches, and some stations sent mobile stations to Germany.
Moreover, the overheated competition for ratings added enormous public relations costs, and networks paid several hundred thousand dollars to celebrity football commentators. Considering all the expenses, the stations grumbled that they were criticized for wasting air time without making much profit.
The networks concentrate on broadcasting popular sports and much anticipated games, putting a disproportional emphasis on certain popular sports. The broadcasting stations even shun football games that are not A-matches not to mention less popular sports. And the football stadiums are often nearly empty during K-League matches, a shame considering the popularity of football in Korea during the World Cup.
Now that the 2006 World Cup in Germany has ended, the executives at the broadcasting corporations must ponder the adverse side effects of simultaneous broadcasting and their excessive coverage.
The stations need to rid themselves of selfishness and negotiate together to prepare a mutual broadcasting schedule for international sports for the sake of the viewers.
I hope the network channels do not repeat the folly of covering only the sports in which Korea has a chance of winning a gold medal and not covering less popular sports, and the Paralympics altogether, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

* The writer is a professor emeritus at the Graduate School of Journalism and Mass Communication of Korea University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim In-gyu
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