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Stem Cell Backlash: No Ads for MBC Show

Posted November. 29, 2005 07:51,   


PD Notes, the TV program which raised ethical questions about Korea’s groundbreaking stem cell research team, is likely to be aired without commercials on November 29.

The weekly documentary program of Korea’s leading TV network MBC has suffered fierce criticism from viewers after last week’s episode that implicated Professor Hwang Woo-suk, Korea’s stem cell pioneer, for unethical egg donations.

With pressure from viewers mounting, ten out of eleven sponsors have already stopped advertising on the program, and GS Holdings made its final decision to move its commercial to other program, leaving the program without sponsors.

“We decided to change the time period for our commercial at a board meeting and notified the advertising agency, LG Ad,” said GS Holdings yesterday. “As other companies all canceled their ads, we found it difficult to retain the contract alone.”

The 11 sponsors are Woori Bank, Kookmin Bank, Meritz Fire and Marine Insurance, Mirae Asset, HSBC, Pyungan Textile, DHL Korea, Woolim Construction, Sinil Callaway, and GS Holdings.

Their decision to cancel the advertisement did not change on November 28 after President Roh Moo-hyun posted a statement on his website saying the cancellation of advertisements was an indication that things have gone too far.

The companies denied any government pressure to resume advertising after an inquiry from Dong-A Ilbo.

Hyundai Motors, which had been negotiating with MBC to air its commercial on the November 29 broadcast, announced it called off the plan and opted for another program.

“At the moment, the next broadcast will almost certainly be aired without commercials,” said a source from the Korea Broadcasting Advertising Corporation (KOBACO). “But we cannot rule out the possibility of a new sponsor until three to four in the afternoon on November 29.”

However, the dominant view is that companies, which are sensitive to public opinion, would not risk making a new advertising contract with the program in the face of strong objections.

It is unprecedented that a public protest against program content would result in the cancellation of all sponsorship for a commercial TV program, experts said.

“Some programs were broadcast without commercials during the 1997 financial crisis, but it was a different case then because it was time of national crisis due to economic depression,” said the source from KOBACO.

In 2000, a TV entertaining program charged Korea’s prominent singer Seo Taiji of lip-synching, which drew severe protest from his fans. Four out of 22 sponsors canceled their advertisements, but the program got new sponsors and was not seriously damaged.

Regarding the confusion over the number of sponsors for PD Notes, KOBACO said, “Hyundai Motors has not been a sponsor, so 11 is correct.”