End these rerunsThe final two episodes of MBC’s hit drama “The Moon that Embraces the Sun” did not air this week due to the ongoing strike at Korea’s second-largest TV network. Viewers had to be satisfied with a rerun of a drama whose previous episode attracted a stunning 47 percent rating because its producers joined the strike that has gone on for seven weeks. The unions at both KBS, the nation’s biggest, and cable news channel YTN also begun walkouts. Whatever their reasons, it is wrong for the two publicly funded broadcasters to rob the public of their viewership rights. The management and unions must both be held accountable for forcing reruns on the public.
The strikers demand the dismissals of their chief executives, who were handpicked by the government, and an end to political interference in broadcasting. MBC’s management took strong punitive measures by firing or suspending those involved in what it claims is an illegal strike unrelated to working conditions. The managements and unions are suing one another and exchanging fierce insults. But we believe the essence of the dispute lies elsewhere. It is in the government’s power over the media, and the big question is how to change the governance of large public terrestrial broadcasters.
What is the complaint about the appointments of MBC President Kim Jae-chul and KBS’s Kim In-kyu? The fact that they were handpicked by the administration. That is the point that should be addressed. Otherwise, the strikes may be perceived as political stunts ahead of upcoming elections and a possible power transition to the current opposition.
Under the current laws, public broadcasters are structured to please the president. The law authorizes the president to nominate the president of KBS as well as name its board of directors at the recommendation of the Korea Communications Commission. The board of directors and members of the commission are mostly from the ruling party. The Foundation for Broadcast Culture names the president of MBC, but board members of the foundation are also mostly affiliated with the ruling party and they are appointed by the Korea Communications Commission.
It is no wonder chief executives of the broadcasters serve as the president’s long arm. The opposition does not seek to change the way the broadcasters are run in fear of losing that same power in the future. The political circles must take initiative to end the vicious cycle at our broadcasters once and for all.