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A skewed public broadcaster

July 23,2019
Public broadcaster KBS has flopped once again. It aired the logos of the conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and a conservative media outlet next to the Japanese flag in the background of a news item about the ongoing consumer boycott on Japanese brands. The broadcaster said the mistake happened because it used a video clip from the internet. The LKP held a rally to protest KBS, calling the move “election interference and a collapse of the spirit of the fair press.”

The news report aired during the prime time 9 o’clock news last week during a report about the online boycott campaign against Japanese products. One of the cases cited in the report introduced a website that campaigned for a boycott. Yet the report used the logos of the LKP and the Chosun Ilbo newspaper in the red section of the Japanese flag. The LKP said the move was intentionally made to hurt the image of the conservative party and demanded a punitive action.

KBS apologized for the blunder and said that they failed to filter out a certain party’s logo when borrowing the image of from an online group. KBS removed the report from online. KBS reporters also raised concern for the broadcaster’s loss of press objectivity that led the public broadcaster to ride on the worsening sentiment between Korea and Japan — instead of cool reflection. KBS has lost its balance too many times recently to take the latest fiasco lightly.

Earlier, KBS President Yang Seung-don refused to comply with the National Assembly’s summons to question him about the possible Blue House connection behind the fever over solar panel installation, as implied in a recent KBS program. The network said it cannot comply with the call because a public broadcaster’s independence would come under jeopardy if the chief has to answer legislative questioning about a news program.

KBS is poised to merge two investigative news programs, raising suspicions that it is out to kill one of them that had been critical of the government. If KBS really merges the shows, further questions may be raised about the neutrality of the public broadcaster, which runs entirely on tax money — and about whether it serves the Blue House or the broader public.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 22, Page 30