[Editorial] New KBS chief is racing to deliver Yoon a pro-administration network

Posted on : 2023-11-15 17:15 KST Modified on : 2023-11-15 17:15 KST
Incoming officials are casting aside principles and procedures and behaving themselves like an occupying army
Park Min, the new president and CEO of KBS, takes questions at a press conference held at the KBS Hall in Yeouido, Seoul, on Nov. 14. (Baek So-ah/The Hankyoreh)
Park Min, the new president and CEO of KBS, takes questions at a press conference held at the KBS Hall in Yeouido, Seoul, on Nov. 14. (Baek So-ah/The Hankyoreh)

From the very first day that Park Min took over as the KBS network’s new president, he immediately began compromising broadcasting independence and production autonomy, removing current affairs programs that the ruling People Power Party has denounced as “biased” from its schedule.

There have also been reports that nominated officials have given notification of the dismissal of producers before the official appointments have even been made.

While many saw this sort of thing coming, the situation is truly dire. It’s simply dumbfounding to see the incoming officials casting aside principles and procedures and behaving themselves like an occupying army.

On Monday, the network announced it would be taking the KBS 2TV program “The Live” off its schedule for three days this week. The current affairs program ordinarily airs from Monday to Thursday.

The decision to remove it from the schedule reportedly came suddenly and without any discussion with the producers.

The unannounced cancellation of the day’s episode prompted users to post a flurry of messages on “The Live” viewer bulletin boards, with titles such as “What are they afraid of?” and “Bring back ‘The Live.’”

Ju Jin-u, the host of the current affairs radio program “Ju Jin-u Live,” also received a sudden notification of his dismissal. In the case of this program, the KBS union has claimed that a figure named as an appointee to head the network’s radio center called the producers to notify them of Ju’s dismissal before the appointment had even gone through.

Both “The Live” and “Ju Jin-u Live” are current affairs programs that the ruling party has attacked for being “biased.” During Park Min’s confirmation hearing on Nov. 7, PPP lawmaker Park Sung-joong singled “Ju Jin-u Live” out as a show that needed to be “made an example of.”

At the time, Park replied that he would “take measures to that effect.” Now he appears to have honored the ruling party’s request immediately upon taking over as network president.

To be sure, a network is within its rights to alter its programming or replace its producers when a new president takes over. But the process needs to be reasonable and transparent. It should be carried out rationally according to the procedures agreed upon by those involved.

What is happening right now at KBS is a long way from that sort of common-sense approach.

The people involved don’t appear to be paying any heed to the programming regulations at KBS, which state that “those in charge of reporting and production must engage in good-faith discussion and explanations with working-level staff in connection with determinations on broadcast suitability and revisions thereof.” How bad is the situation when the people involved described it as having been “like a military coup”?

Addressing the public in a press conference Tuesday, Park Min apologized for the network’s “unfair and biased reporting in the past.” He also said that the journalists and producers responsible for causing controversy with their biased reporting would immediately be removed from their studies and subjected to stern disciplinary measures.

Few if any Koreans are unaware where all of this is pointing: a network with a pro-Yoon Suk-yeol bias. The people involved must be held accountable in the court of public opinion for collaborating with political authorities in the trampling of public broadcasting.

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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