3. MBC, KBS, and their Struggle for Impartiality
KOREA REPORT(2017 NO.3)
3. MBC, KBS and the Struggle for Impartiality
3. MBC, KBS, and their Struggle for Impartiality
□ MBC on the verge of general strike; KBS reporters also agreed to boycott production
○ MBC reporters, producer, and news anchors are boycotting production demanding ‘immediate resignation of the board of directors’
- The incident began with boycotting production on July 21 and the boycott by current affairs and documentaries section on August 2. With the leakage of possible ‘blacklist’ of journalists within MBC on August 8, other news anchors also joined the boycott. By August 23, it is expected other sections within MBC will join the boycott on production. The MBC labor union is planning to place general strike for vote during August 24-29.
- On August 16, 516 reporters at KBS also began their boycott on production demanding ‘immediate resignation of CEO Ko Dae-young.’ According to employees poll by the new labor union at KBS, 88% of all employees at KBS supports resignation of CEO.
○ Investigation by Korea Communications Commission (KCC), seeking for solutions and alternatives, while Liberty Korea Party pledges to ‘protect’ MBC.
- The KCC began its investigation on KBS and MBC(Aug. 21). During the KCC’s policy briefing to President Moon, the KCC reported on its plan to found ‘Commission for Developing the Future of Broadcasting’ to enhance impartiality in broadcasting (Aug 22).
- Contrastingly, on August 14, Chairman Hong Joon-pyo of Liberty Korea Party stated that “There is only MBC left.” Kang Hyo-sang, chairman of ‘special committee to deter control on broadcasting’ of Liberty Korea Party, compared the government and CEOs of MBC and KBS as ‘mob’ and ‘evictees,’ respectively.
□ The current crisis of public broadcasting stems from the former government’s privatization of the industry as well as institutional limitations.
○ Discredited public broadcasting
- Due to the privatization of broadcasting by the former Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye governments, the public broadcasting became subservient to governments, e.g. journalists who sought for truth were unfairly dismissed by the administrations. Peoples’ distrust on public broadcasting deepened.
- According to a poll on credibility of broadcasting companies, targeting the incumbent journalists, JTBC listed on the top (30.3%), while public broadcasting channels like MBC (1.3%) and KBS (6%) received significantly low level of points (Journalists Association of Korea, Aug. 16).
○ Privatization of broadcasting resulted from the existing institutions which are limited in guaranteeing impartiality.
- The board of directors of public broadcasting companies are selected or recommended on the basis of the candidates’ political interests and their relations with the government.
- In July 2016, 162 members of the national assembly jointly submitted ‘law on preventing broadcast control’ to reform the governance structure of public broadcasting companies. When making candidate recommendations for the board of directors, the new law sets higher discretion by the opposition party members (candidate recommendation ratio 7:4→7:6). In electing CEO, the law prescribes a special majority voting system where 2/3 of registered directors have to agree on the candidate. Yet, due to the oppositions from Liberty Korea Party, the law remains at a halt in the assembly.
□ Return public broadcasting to the people, no longer subservient to governments.
○ Consensus to restore and ‘normalize’ public broadcasting is being formed among the public, journalists and government.
- Social consensus is being formed among the public on the MBC boycott on production and strike (Pro-strike 63.6%, KSOI, Aug. 20).
- 214 NGOs and media organizations including National Union of Mediaworkers, Citizens’ Coalition for Democratic Media (CCDM), People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) have formed ‘People’s Action to Normalize KBS and MBC.’
- The Moon administration announced new agendas for i) rational reform of corporate governance structure of public broadcasting companies, ii) founding of institutions to guarantee freedom of report·production· program, iii) reinstatement and restoration of unfairly dismissed journalists and their reputation – overall, measures to enhance independence of media.
○ Self-reflection by the journalists and improvement of institutions are the keys to normalizing public broadcasting system.
- The board of directors of MBC and KBS should take responsibility of the current situation with the determination to solve the problems they themselves have created.
- The KCC should exercise its legal ‘right for supervision and oversight’ and actively contribute in normalizing public broadcasting in Korea.
- The national assembly should attend to passing the ‘law on preventing broadcast control’ at once, which remains at a halt in the assembly.