Set broadcasting firms freeKim Jae-chul, the contentious president of major broadcaster MBC, has been ousted by the company’s board after a media strike of unprecedented length. The Foundation for Broadcast Culture (FBC), MBC’s biggest shareholder, voted in favor of Kim’s dismissal. It’s the first time the FBC has fired the head of the broadcasting network. The decision requires the approval from the shareholders’ meeting, but likely won’t be reversed. But what’s important for MBC is what happens to it post-Kim.
Since he took the helm at MBC in 2010 Kim has been embroiled in numerous scandals, faced questions about his credentials, and been caught up in conflicts with the labour union and the board of directors. The foundation said it decided to fire him because he made executive appointments without prior consultation with the board. But in truth, the FBC wanted to rid the company of the burden of a controversial figure who tarnished the reputation of the broadcaster for the past three years.
But will the public broadcasting giant be able to rebuild its name after kicking out its chief executive? The militant union is also responsible for MBC’s fall from grace. It is now mocked as a union-controlled firm. The unionized employees failed to fulfil their duty as members of the media when they continued their strike even as the entire country was in shock over the deaths of young sailors in the sinking of the Cheonan warship three years ago. They also stripped the public of their viewership rights in the 170-day strike that started last January. Their repeated strikes have raised questions about their political motivation.
The president and ruling party should revamp the ownership structure of public networks so that the governing power of the moment can no longer wield influence over KBS and MBC. The board members of the foundation have the authority to name the president of MBC and are selected by the Korea Communications Commission, which is mostly comprised of figures associated with the ruling party. KBS board members who nominate the head of the KBS are also appointed by the president at the recommendation of the Communications Commission. Under this structure, the country’s two largest broadcasters won’t be free from political influence and resistance from labour unions.
President Park Geun-hye pledged a revision of the regulations to ensure the sovereignty and neutrality of public broadcasters. The opposition party should also join in to help broadcasters finally free themselves from political chains. There is no future for the country’s media if figures close to the seat of power continue to head broadcasting networks.