Let’s talk about KBSKBS — under fire for its biased editing and broadcasting — has prompted conservative legislators and civilians to seek separate TV fees for the national broadcaster. Main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) set up a special committee targeting KBS that is aimed at charging separately for channels run by the national broadcaster.
The public broadcaster enjoys fixed revenue in TV fees, as a 2,500 won ($2.22) monthly payment is bundled up in electricity bill or apartment maintenance bills at households across the nation with TV antennae. The military regime under President Chun Doo Hwan arranged the combined charge system for KBS in 1984 amid a consumer boycott of the public broadcaster for acting as the mouthpiece of the authoritarian government.
This became an issue as KBS gradually lost the public’s confidence as a public broadcaster. Its documentaries and dramas often drew controversy for biased views or misrepresentation, as well as vulgarity. Last year, it angered conservative viewers for airing a liberal group head’s comment that likened North Korea’s hereditary rule over three generations to President Park Chung Hee and his daughter, former President Park Geun-hye. A talk show hosted by leftist entertainer Kim Je-dong also came under fire last month for glorifying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
KBS also live broadcasted Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo’s controversial comment that suggested the South Korean people should forgive North Korea for its sinking of the Cheonan naval ship, which killed 46 South Korean sailors, for a better future with North Korea. The progressive comments and views coming from a public broadcaster targeting the broad population have gone too far.
KBS should have apologized and vowed fairness. But senior executives are suspected of trying to lobby to prevent it from being penalized for the controversial programs. It is no wonder that some organizations are campaigning to boycott KBS.
At the same time, however, the opposition should not use the case for political gain. The conservative party also influenced KBS for its own political interests when it was the governing power. The issue should be led and addressed through public consensus. The separation of TV fees for KBS should be dealt with in the context of a changing media environment where people now prefer to watch programs through online or streaming platforms rather than TV.
JoongAng Sunday, Jan. 5-6, Page 30