Neglecting neutrality

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Neglecting neutrality

KBS, a public broadcaster funded by taxes, has entirely thrown out its role of serving the population. It neglects neutrality and balance in both its news and talk show programs. Its blatant one-sided reporting and programming has frustrated and angered viewers.

Ryu Si-min, head of a foundation honoring former President Roh Moo-hyun and former health and welfare minister, was the latest guest on a KBS2 talk show hosted by singer-songwriter You Hee-yeol. Ryu, who has become a semi-celebrity figure after appearing so many times on television, talked about his versatile history from student activist days to TV drama scriptwriter with his usual lively humor. The host asked him whether he was returning to politics in a tantalizing end to grab viewers’ attention for next week’s program.

Ryu is free to appear on mainstream broadcasting since he is already a popular figure. But as a public broadcaster, KBS should have been more prudent in featuring him at a time when he is eagerly chased by the ruling party as a candidate for next year’s election. The nationwide television appearance is more or less allowing him to appeal to voters should he decide to run. Liberty Korea Party Rep. Shim Jae-chul accused him of distorting the facts about the democracy movement in 1980s. “History must not be construed for entertainment purpose,” he said.

KBS’ investigative journal “In Depth 60 minutes” went after former Supreme Court Justice Park Bo-young, who is now serving in a regional court, and pressed on with questions about her past rulings despite her refusal to comply with the TV interview. The program, which airs this weekend, challenges three of the controversial rulings she presided over as a justice at the top court, repeatedly asking for her comments to the victims and families. KBS claims it was covering the issue on behalf of the people. Yet demanding that a judge explain the grounds for their previous rulings can undermine the independence of the court. The Yeosu City Court sent a letter to KBS, warning that it would file a lawsuit if the broadcaster airs anything that has not been consented to.

There were a number of other programs on KBS with distinctive leftist features that stirred up controversy. A conservative union of the broadcaster complained about the outright leftist direction of the broadcaster. The union issued a statement accusing the management of donating KBS to the liberal administration and demanded that executives resign. It is important for the public broadcaster to stand neutral in a society deeply divided. The media must not represent a particular party or ideological front. KBS must correct itself before it faces a humiliating boycott campaign.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 25, Page 30
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