The people’s broadcaster

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The people’s broadcaster

President Lee Myung-bak sacked Jung Yun-joo from his post as KBS chief yesterday. After signing the dismissal recommendation, the president said, “It is now time for KBS to be reborn.” The question remains, however, in which direction this rebirth should proceed.

KBS is a public broadcaster serving both the people’s welfare and profit as top priorities, not for the benefit of the government or the administration. Therefore, maintaining political neutrality, fairness and objectivity in its reporting without distortion of facts and bias are the key values that it must respect. Jung’s successor must be someone who can protect such values.

What worries us is the intention of the government. “We should take into account the neutrality of the broadcaster,” Park Jae-wan, senior Blue House secretary for state affairs planning, said last month regarding a the KBS presidency.

“But it is also necessary to verify if a candidate is the best fit to perform the duty as head of a state-run entity by actively promoting the governance philosophy and ideas of the new administration and serving the demands of the new era,” he continued.

Such a remark is clearly wrong; the administration is in effect seeking a mouthpiece to promote its policies.

There was some awkwardness in the process of dismissing Jung, but the people accepted it. That was because Jung was appointed by the previous administration for sharing the same ideology and was responsible for biased KBS broadcasting in the past. But the people’s acceptance does not mean that this administration can appoint a president who will do the same for it.

The government must give KBS back to the people. It is time for Koreans to have a trusted public broadcaster, like the BBC of Britain and NHK of Japan. The people have the right to a broadcaster which does not air biased programs to please those with power. The people have the right to a broadcaster that does not waste taxpayer money. The people have the right to a fair broadcaster that serves to benefit the public. And it is the government’s duty to guarantee and fulfill such rights.

The first step is to appoint a person who is impartial, professional and trusted by the nation as the new KBS president. The people are watching carefully to see whether the next KBS president will instead be someone who had worked for the president’s election, wandered around the political arena and succeeded in forming ties with those in power.
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