[Viewpoint] What broadcasters owe the public

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[Viewpoint] What broadcasters owe the public

With the number of TV networks rising exponentially over the years, the role of broadcasting in our society has increased accordingly, as has its influence in shaping public opinion.

However, whenever political and social problems erupt, broadcasting in general emerges as a more sensitive issue than other major social and economic topics, causing chaos and conflict.

As a person who has been working in the broadcasting field for more than 30 years, I am frustrated by this trend.

I started working in the industry in 1964, when broadcasting had just started in Korea. I’ve worked in the same field ever since.

Watching the relationship between broadcasting and administrations from the inside, I find myself aggravated sometimes and frustrated at other times.

Still, I had hope that our broadcasting industry would break the shackles and truly become free and independent one day.

I had hope because the media field’s labor union sprouted in the wake of the democratization of our society, at the end of military rule.

But recently the labor union itself is at the center of concern.

The industry has a responsibility to be independent and fair to viewers, who are, ultimately, the owners of broadcasting.

Station managers and the government are not the true owners of broadcasting, nor is the labor union.

It’s the people who own broadcasting.

Independence and fairness are the ultimate raisons d’etre of the media industry.

We do not need to mention the most obvious statement that responsibility comes along with freedom.

Producers who are in charge of creating programs must enforce strict ethics, exemplify fairness and have a sense of responsibility for the country and the people.

If a producer reflects his own ideology or values into the programs he makes, the damage spreads to the people, and that is a crime against history.

Recently, the fairness and objectivity of documentaries and other major TV programs made during the previous administrations are being reviewed from a new perspective.

Regardless of evaluations or judgments on these, the fact that such things become issues is a grave dishonor to producers and requires them to think seriously about whether they have done anything wrong.

The power of the media workers’ union has grown, but that power should be used for the people, not for the workers’ own interest or ideology.

And this power certainly should not be used to serve the broadcasting companies that employ these workers.

If the workers use their power for the wrong purpose, they, too, inevitably will be on the receiving end of sharp criticism from the people.

The current broadcasting system was created as a result of the government’s efforts - when the country was under military rule - to control the mass media.

But this system has been a chronic disease for the broadcasting industry.

Military rule deformed the system, whose very structure is at the root of many problems.

Ironically, the media workers’ labor union maintains that privatization of the broadcasting companies is an attempt to dominate broadcasting.

It has repeatedly staged strikes and has even asked the administration to resign

Soon, this whole issue is expected to create another storm in the National Assembly, where legislators will be examining media reform bills.

As digital technology has developed, the integration of broadcasting and telecommunications is an inevitable result.

Giant media companies have been created as a result.

The sales volume of a U.S.-based global company like Time Warner or Walt Disney is 26 times bigger than our major networks’ sales volumes combined.

If this persists, the gap will certainly widen, and our broadcasting companies will remain shabby businesses or could potentially fall victim to global media companies.

Before the information technology industry in Korea bloomed, the media industry had to operate as it had been set up.

But now it’s very clear that broadcasting needs to merge with other new industries to survive and thrive in the digital age.

If the entire pie does not grow bigger and if good content is not developed, there is no future for our media industry. Korea’s status as a leading IT country will be diminished.

It is hard to understand why this has to be such a contentious issue.

There cannot be any differences between the ruling and opposition parties, or for that matter between the labor unions and management, when it comes to preparing for the future of our country.

*The writer is the president of the Korean Media Workers’ Association. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Jang Han-sung
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