Go to contents

[Editorial] The Double Standard of Media Focus

Posted September. 29, 2008 09:12,   


Media Focus, a current affairs program on KBS, attacked leading Korean dailies Saturday for their reporting of the U.S. financial crisis. The program arbitrarily and subjectively criticized the use of provocative headlines and belated coverage of the issue after the crisis broke out. On the “black September" rumors about Korea’s financial market that were eventually proven wrong, it brazenly cited lack of consistency in the newspapers’ coverage of crises, comparing one report which said the rumor was groundless with one on the Asian financial crisis 10 years ago.

Started in 2003, Media Focus is the brainchild of former KBS President Jung Yun-joo, who touted the program “reformatory.” Though its creator is no longer with KBS, his ideas live on in the program. In its Sept. 6 edition, the program lambasted mainstream newspapers for instigating ideological confrontation by having increasingly using the term “leftist” in their articles in election years since 1992. The frequency of the use of words such as “right,” “conservative” and “progressive” also went up, however, and those indicating an ideological stance frequently showed up in left-leaning newspapers as well. All in all, it reflects the enduring legacy of ideological conflict brought on by the former Roh Moo-hyun administration.

Media Focus has been at the forefront of attacking mainstream newspapers, hailing the Roh administration and left-leaning media and having protected Jung’s position at KBS. A total of 122 reports it aired through July this year were devoted to bashing conservative dailies, namely The Dong-a Ilbo, The Chosun Ilbo and the JoongAng Ilbo. Only four reports were about KBS and none of them contained criticism. The program is so busy pointing its finger at others that it has turned a blind eye to its own shortcomings. It blindly stood by Jung’s side in its Aug. 11 edition when everyone else wanted to get rid of him.

In stark contrast, none of its reports have criticized left-leaning media. According to a report by the Korean Society for Journalism and Communication Studies on broadcasts covering the impeachment of former President Roh Moo-hyun, it interviewed seven opponents and no proponents of the legal action. Though the program uses national airtime, the property of all Koreans, it only offers a slanted view that fails to reflect how the public sees society.

Unfortunately, the producers of Media Focus have unabashedly and publicly demanded that the new KBS president declare his ideological values when he mentioned reform of the program. If the reform simply involves changing the time slot or format, it will utterly disappoint the viewers. Articles 5 and 6 of the Broadcasting Law state that public broadcasters must abide by law, refrain from dividing the people, and offer fair and objective programs.

Without holding Media Focus accountable for its ideological bias and ill intentions, establishing fair public broadcasting will remain a pipe dream.