[Viewpoint]Know how to say sorry

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[Viewpoint]Know how to say sorry

Japanese TV programs are not very interesting, except for a few documentary programs. I have watched them for over five years.

In the past, Japanese TV was the model for Korean broadcasters, but our programs and dramas are far more competitive now. The Monday 9 p.m. drama is Japan’s most watched TV program, but it is not comparable to its counterpart in Korea. Many industry sources in Japan agree.

But is the same true for TV news reports?

In Japan, there are only a few TV news programs like the ones that air in Korea. There are few current affairs program like “PD Diary,” which was created by producers for a specific purpose.

But in Japan, there is one very interesting point about investigative and current affairs programs. Apologies and corrections are aired as soon as possible when there is only a slim possibility that there has been some misunderstanding in the production process.

Not only the facts, but also the approach to the facts can be the subject of an apology.

Ichiro Furutachi, the host of TV Asahi’s “News Station” issued an apology for the 10 p.m. show on July 9. “If we have caused misunderstanding, we must apologize,” Furutachi said.

The program aired an investigative report on the problems the medical system presents for the nation’s elderly. Video footage of the Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership meeting from the previous day was shown in the background.

The video showed participants smiling and talking to each other, and the host said, “They are laughing despite these problems.”

The politicians’ meeting was indeed dealing with the medical system for the elderly, and the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan said there was not a big problem with the footage. However, TV Asahi went ahead and issued an apology because there was a possibility that the party leaders could have been laughing and talking about a subject other than the medical system for the elderly.

This is a striking contrast to PD Diary, which portrayed footage of a downer cow as if it were infected with mad cow disease. The show’s producers are still unwilling to issue a proper apology.

When an apology is issued by a Japanese broadcaster, it is a real apology.

The host of “Ping Pong,” a current affairs program on Japan’s TBS issued an apology in June last year, pointing out the unreasonableness of a production. “It was an extremely senseless, reckless attempt by our program. I don’t know what to do because I am extremely embarrassed,” the host said in tears. “I will speak about my feeling frankly. I feel like I have just betrayed my most trusted friend.”

Was the host really asked to make such an apology?

TBS’s “Special Report,” or “Houdou Tokushu NEXT,” which has a 28-year history, is the Japanese version of CBS’s “60 Minutes.” It is similar to MBC’s PD Diary. In an episode called “Media’s control behind the scenes,” Yoshitsugu Tanaka, the show’s 63-year-old producer, said, “Based on my experiences, it is possible to present a certain conclusion through editing.”

Tanaka gave an example of “street voices.” While portraying A’s opinion with added effects and editing B’s opinion with fewer effects, the A opinion will inevitably appear stronger, Tanaka said.

He said he paid a lot of attention to making sure “street voices” did not become “street voices created by a producer.”

I think Korean broadcasters cannot confidently say that they are better than those in Japan. When the prosecution launched an investigation into PD Diary at the request of the Agriculture Ministry, the broadcaster said the probe is “a direct challenge to press freedom” and refused to cooperate. It said the government wanted to “make PD Diary a scapegoat.”

Press freedom is a value that must be protected. However, what’s more important than press freedom is reporting the truth.

There is no doubt that the truth behind PD Diary’s mad cow report must be exposed by the probe. That is the basic right of the Korean people who were wounded by this crisis.

I also want to stress that the scapegoat of the current situation is not PD Diary but the innocent Koreans who were drawn into the chaos.


*The writer is the Tokyo Correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Hyun-ki
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