For KBS, how about a foreigner?

Home > Opinion > Columns

print dictionary print

For KBS, how about a foreigner?


Lee Kyu-youn

Greece, the United States, Bosnia, Switzerland, Honduras, Ecuador, Iran, Japan, Chile, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire and Colombia share one common denominator. They are all countries that have appointed foreigners to lead their national football teams. Of the 32 national teams that qualified for the 2014 World Cup, 14 of them have foreigners as head coaches.

Among them, Costa Rica attracted the most attention. This small Latin American country beat Uruguay, Italy and Greece, and advanced to the quarterfinal round for the first time in its history. Coach Jorge Luis Pinto is the man who stands at the center of this, with some media likening him to Guus Hiddink.

Hiddink successfully advanced Asia’s football to reach the World Cup semifinal, which the sports community called the “Hiddink effect.” Korea’s football history is divided into before and after Hiddink. He completely reshaped the country’s practice of operating football teams based on a fighting spirit. He chose the national team members based on performance, not personal connections. He injected the mentality of a game based on technique and physical strength. He also created a system that took into account the management of athletes and the audiences, as well as publicity. After the Korean team, led by coach Hong Myung-bo, returned home from Brazil, having played poorly, the memory of Hiddink resurfaced here.

But the Korean Broadcasting System is, perhaps, the place more desperately in need of the Hiddink effect than the national football team. This representative national broadcaster has long suffered from a range of chronic conditions - controversies surrounding its political independence, public character and the rationalization of its management.

The administration of former President Kim Dae-jung led the enactment of a comprehensive broadcasting act, which established an independent regulatory body and a supervisory body to ensure KBS’s independence and character. This system has governed the broadcaster from 2000 until now.

In the world of global public broadcasters, there are three types of governance. France and the United States follow the model governed by the administration and legislature, while the British and Japanese are supervised by independent bodies. Germany chose the public governance model. The Kim administration chose the second model by having an independent supervisory body, while the government intervenes on its formation and operation.

And yet, KBS’s path remained rocky even after this model was introduced. Whenever a new administration started, the government promised to build the foundation for the public broadcaster. Whenever a new president for the broadcaster was appointed, he promised a rebirth of KBS as the people’s broadcaster.

In 2004, the Grand National Party - the predecessor of the ruling Saenuri Party - argued that a law should be established to govern KBS as a type of national infrastructure. In 2012, civic groups recommended the ownership restructuring of the public broadcaster. But their demands never materialized.

Lately, KBS has failed miserably as the nation’s key broadcaster in how it dealt with the Sewol ferry disaster. Its president and the news director stepped down over rumored pressure from the Blue House. And it initiated an ideological debate with its report on prime ministerial nominee Moon Chang-keuk.

Some politicians and scholars demand that some factors from the civic governance model be added to the current governance model of KBS. There will be no improvement, however, when only stopgap measures are made to temporarily quiet various criticisms and demands. The time has come to completely reconsider the old model.

Creating a new governance model is not an easy task. Extreme ideological controversy and conflicts among business partners will arise. Despite that, creating a new model is absolutely necessary to resolve the mountain of problems immediately and establish the public order that will clearly distinguish KBS from other private broadcasters. At the same time, it needs new leadership.

The process to find a new KBS president is currently ongoing and most of the candidates are either from KBS or other broadcasting institutions. No matter how talented they are, it is hard for them to escape restraints since they are all insiders. The broadcaster has a rigid structure in that no president can work independently without thinking about pleasing the Blue House, the administration, the National Assembly and the labor unions.

How about inviting a foreign specialist to the post? An outsider - who won’t be swayed by compliments and criticism, who will operate KBS based on performance and talent not politics and who has an advanced global strategy - should be hired to design the new model.

Some may criticize the idea by saying that a foreigner is not appropriate to “protect national identity.” Some may say that a foreigner won’t have the same understanding about the broadcasting landscape here. There is also a legal limit that only a Korean national can be appointed as the head.

But just like the national football team, which had no choice but to hire Hiddink shortly before the World Cup, inviting an outsider is an option that deserves attention in order to treat KBS’s chronic illness. If a foreigner cannot be appointed as KBS head by law, a future strategy director may be a viable option.

Again, KBS is more desperately in need of the Hiddink effect than the national football team.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 4, Page 30

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

BY Lee Kyu-youn
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)