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Broadcasters Abruptly Shifted Attitude upon Lee’s Victory

Broadcasters Abruptly Shifted Attitude upon Lee’s Victory

Posted December. 22, 2007 05:41,   


“We felt uncomfortable to find ourselves in this position.”

This remark is reported to have come from the Grand National Party who found a major attitude shift toward its candidate Lee Myung-bak by some major broadcast networks immediately following Lee’s landslide victory in the presidential election on December 19, 2007. Until right before the election, Lee had been dogged by allegations of involvement in the BBK stock manipulation scandal.

The GNP has criticized the news reports by some networks and news media as “biased” leading up to the election. On December 17, GNP spokesperson Na Kyung-won released a comment regarding newly emerged video footage in the last few days of the presidential race, saying, “Two out of the four major TV networks aired that candidate Lee had stated that he founded BBK in the video clip, but their reports were just plain false.”

However, immediately after voting closed at 6:00 p.m. on December 19, as Lee’s victory became obvious, some TV networks began releasing reports on Lee’s winning the election in completely changed manners.

As for the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), around 8:00 p.m. during when the ballot counting continued, it broadcasted the move of a black sedan vehicle in which candidate Lee was believed to be in as the vehicle departed from the Lotte Hotel, in Sogong-dong, Seoul. Mobilizing a motorcycle equipped with a camera, usually utilized for broadcasting marathon races, the network aired the vehicle for about 10 minutes. During this news report, an announcer made incorrect remarks saying that, “Candidate Lee is reviewing his acceptance speech in a press release. He would be accompanied by spokesmen Na Kyung-won and Park Hyeong-jun.”

Yet, the president-elect was not present in the vehicle. Some netizens harshly blamed the TV network for its carelessness in their report when his absence was confirmed.

As voter turnout results were aired, KBS highlighted the success story of the president-elect by releasing a documentary program titled “LMB, Who is He.” The documentary introduced hardships and financial difficulties in Lee’s childhood and his ability and efforts to reorganize the mass transportation system and newly establish Cheonggyecheon area as Seoul mayor.

In its closing, the documentary program said along with narration and splendid background music, “He dreamed of becoming an ‘economic president.’ He declares to become a practical leader who is willing to act based on rationality and efficiency above ideology. He has worker’s hands. At an early age, he had to support his family and later changed the map of Seoul with the restoration of Cheonggyecheon. His rough hands tightly held the citizens’ hands.”

Moonhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) also broadcasted Lee Myung-bak’s rags-to- riches success stories during its report on voting tally results.

In the case of Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), as of 6:00 p.m. on election day, it began releasing the subtitle “LMB is certain of winning presidency,” and reported on its special news report that “Candidate Lee was declared as the 17th president of South Korea” when the ballot counting was over six percent as of 8:05 p.m. SBS broadcasted live from the special stage set in front of Seoul City Hall where candidate Lee, who had his birthday on this day, blew out the candles on a cake and beat a drum.

Choi Hong-jae, an executive of civic alliance against biased broadcasting, pointed out, “The abrupt shift in the attitudes of TV networks manifests their susceptibility of being influenced by political changes.”

With regard to this, an MBC official said, “Regardless of our previous reports, we cannot produce reports that adversely affect the person elected as president by the public. It is incorrect to say that our reporting attitude is changed. We just provided adequate news reports according to the changes of our broadcast targets.”

ddr@donga.com zozo@donga.com