Bias in broadcastsPublic broadcasters that should put a top priority on people’s health are busy exaggerating fears over mad cow disease.
An MBC-TV documentary program started the current panic. The program titled “Is U.S. beef safe from mad cow disease?” was aired on April 29, sparking panic among Koreans here. The program was full of overblown and distorted stories.
For instance, the program talked about an American woman who died from symptoms which were suspected to be those of the human variant of mad cow disease. But it turned out that she didn’t have the disease, according to an official report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on June 12. The program, however, is delaying airing a correction, saying that the parents of the woman haven’t received the final report yet.
The program showed the story of the dead American woman for 14 minutes. When the woman’s mother said there was a chance that her daughter died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, CJD, the disease was translated into vCJD, variant CJD, in the Korean subtitles. The program translated the name of a disease which has nothing to do with beef into another disease, the human equivalent of mad cow disease. Last month, the Press Arbitration Commission ordered the program to run corrections about distorted reports, but the program refuses to do so.
Why does the program refuse to reveal the truth?
KBS has also exaggerated the risks of mad cow disease. Its 9 o’clock news program on June 15 reported that in some slaughterhouses in the United States beef from cattle younger than 30 months and beef from cattle over 30 months can come into contact during the freezing process, creating a risk of cross contamination.
The skin of a slaughtered animal is not specified risk material and therefore there is no risk of contamination with mad cow disease. But the broadcast does its best to exaggerate the dangers while ignoring common scientific knowledge.
One suspects that the two broadcasters exaggerated the risk for their own political purposes. They intend to block broadcasting reforms by damaging the authority of the administration. If they continue to provide distorted information in an attempt to protect their own interests, they are no longer qualified to be called public broadcasters.
That is another reason that full-scale reform of the nation’s broadcasters are desperately needed.