How to tame public broadcasters
The Democratic Party (DP) has unilaterally passed four bills to revise broadcasting laws at a subcommittee of the Science, Technology and ITC Committee in the National Assembly. The majority party wants to change the board of a public broadcaster, currently seated with nine to 11 directors, to a 21-member steering committee. Five of them are to be recommended by the legislature, four by the board of viewers, six by media-related academies, and two each from associations of broadcasting journalists, producers and broadcasting engineers. A civilian board of 100 will recommend candidates for president to a broadcaster, from which the steering committee would choose one by votes of more than two thirds of the members of the 21-member steering committee.
The DP and the governing People Power Party (PPP) clashed violently over the unilateral move. The DP claimed that the bills are necessary to prevent the governing power from swaying public broadcasters and return them to the public. But the PPP contends that the move is aimed at handing over government control over public broadcasters to unions. The PPP called it another legislative tyranny.
Everyone would agree to the need to reestablish the status of our public broadcasters so that they could be free from government and political influence. Every time the ruling power changes, it tries to change the management of public broadcasters. Broadcasters have lost public confidence as a result.
Board members of public broadcasters have been appointed by ruling and opposing parties at the ratio of 7 to 4 or 6 to 3. The DP wants to set stronger guidelines. But its wants to set guidelines in favor of a particular side — employees of the broadcasters and viewers who are mostly affiliated with the liberal party. Although the DP claims that the cause is for political neutrality, its outline suggests an ambition to have permanent influence over public broadcasters. The conservative PPP suspects the DP wants to fill the steering committee with figures loyal to the party or unions.
The lawmaking process has also not been fair. Unilateral approval by a supermajority party holding 169 seats in the 300-member National Assembly cannot be justified. It should have sought a compromise by forming a consultative body with the PPP or through a social body to convince the people of the need to reestablish the status of public broadcasters to meet the growing public expectations for their unbiased broadcasting. If the DP seeks to control public broadcasting to help protect its head Lee Jae-myung to survive the ongoing investigations into a plethora of allegations against him, that’s not the way to go.
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