Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an article appeared in he <Kyunghyang Shinmun> on Dec. 29, 2012, reporting an interesting public sentiment demanding news media that will deliver balanced reports something turned out to be impossible from pro-government existing news firms over the last 5 years of current government. All rights regarding this post stay with the author(s) of the original article or with <Kyunghyang Shinmun> and this post will be scrapped immediately at their request. In the post, I tried to match the English translation of names of people / institution(s) / position(s) to authentic one(s) as much as possible but, unfortunately, some of them still can be different. Original article of this post (in Korean) can be found in the link below.
Won-sik Chung 정원식 기자 bachwsik
‘Democratization is not a single match game. Please don’t falter! Please don’t despair! Please show your support to the launch of Hankyoreh Shinmun (newspaper).’ So goes the copy of advertisement in newspapers like Hankook Ilbo (daily), Donga Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo, Joongang Ilbo starting from Dec. 23, 1987.
Plan for new media that had been discussed by a group of laid-off correspondents discharged from Donga Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo while participating in free press movement in 1970s evolved dramatically since June struggle in 1987. After fixing fund raising method, news editing principle and official launch date, they started to raise fund from Nov. 2 that year. But the target 5 billion was something unattainable by conventional wisdom. Unexpectedly, however, the presidential election held on Dec. 16, 1987 ignited the fund raising onslaught. The fruit of direct presidential election people achieved through the hard fought June struggle was taken away preposterously by Tae-woo Rho, then presidential candidate of much hated ruling Democratic Justice Party. People’s inquiry for investment avalanched to launch preparation office. For about 40 days until Dec. 12 before the presidential election, 1.6 billion was raised. Since the presidential election, they were able to raise 100 million every day.
Repulsion to pro-regime public broadcasting firms
In the afternoon Dec. 12, 2012, members of national media workers union (NMWU) are shouting slogans denouncing present government for damaging free press in front of Prress Center Taepyeong-ro Seoul. Civil society’s animosity against pro-regime media is erupting in the form of demand for new People’s TV since presidential election./Yonhapnews 연합뉴스
Demands for new media erupts fiercely among supporters of opposition candidate since presidential election on Dec. 19, 2012. In a cursory look, the circumstance reminds us the situation back in 1987. Despite elevated people’s aspiration for government change, presidential candidate of ruling party won the election and brought great disappointment to supporters of opposition candidate and the need for alternative media is suggested as a way to breakthrough current gridlocked circumstance. But, this time, what people want is a broadcasting firm, not a newspaper. The fact that public broadcasting firms have relayed news broadcasts biased in favor of ruling party and government during the last five years of Myung-bak Lee’s presidency while the people’s requests of balanced coverage were suppressed severely plays a great role here.
People’s demand for new broadcasting system converges in two directions; strengthening ‘<Newstapa>’ and launching ‘<People’s TV>(temporary name)’. <Newstapa> that had been launched in Jan. 2012 by several laid-off media workers of present government was wrapping up second season by Dec. 14 final episode and was planning for year 2013. After the presidential election, staffers of <Newstapa> are beefing up their efforts. Since Dec. 20, the next day of presidential election, phone call inquiries were pouring in. They were half cheering messages and half outcries. Individual sponsors of <Newstapa> that marked 6000 until Dec. 15 were swelled up by 3000 more just on Dec. 20 only. On 21, 9000 more joined as individual sponsors. By Dec. 27, 24,000 people are sponsoring <Newstapa>. In less than a week after the presidential election, sponsors were multiplied by 4 fold.
Staffers of <Newstapa> are thinking very hard to come up with a way to relay all the fervor. Rough plan is already in place. First, they will turn <Newstapa> that has been supported by NMWU so far into a legal entity. For this, they will form a ‘preparation committee’ or ‘development committee’ and discuss concrete plans like turning it into a public foundation or else in Jan. 2013. Another important change is that single episode a week format so far will be expanded to two episodes a week format. The key is manpower and funding. So far, <Newstapa> has been made by media workers heavily disciplined or laid-off by existing media firms like YTN, MBC, KBS, Kookmin Ilbo and supporting staffs from NMWU. Usually 4∼5 people worked on an episode. For two episodes a week schedule, simple calculation indicates twice or more manpower and fund is needed.
Funding issue looks quite promising. Joong-seok Park, KBS correspondent and head of NMWU democratic press committee, who also participates in making <Newstapa> said “we need 30000 sponsors to secure fund to meet two episodes a week schedule. Current trend seems we can make the goal.” Manpower issue is still liquid. First target to fill up necessary staffer is laid-off media workers with proven reporting capacity but all of them are not to be forced to join <Newstapa>. Experienced correspondents and intern college students are also considered for manpower pool. News items will also be expanded. Investigative reports will still be the backbone but international news and talk shows can also be considered as possible items in expanded format. Strategic alliance with existing media are also sought for. Content exchange with newsweekly <SisaIN> are already under negotiation right now.
Voices of concern on fund raising and opposition inclination for talked-about new media
<People’s TV> is another trend that something beyond <Newstapa> as an organization of laid-off media workers is demanded and new broadcasting firm with the outlook and scale of outright broadcasting firm should be established. Basic plan for <People’s TV> is based on ‘media cooperation’ proposal by producer Yong-min Kim who takes part in <Naneun Kkomsuda>. The plan is to raise seed money by gathering voluntary investors as cooperation members and run the broadcasting firm as a cooperation as well. Since basic law on cooperation is enacted in Dec. 2012, legal ground is paved already.
14 civil society people who share the same idea of establishing <People’s TV> had first preparation meeting on Dec. 27. Basic plans for <People’s TV> were discussed at the meeting. Some of them are like ‘Cooperation members who invested more than 50000 will all exercise one voting rights.’ ‘70 people of program production crew, administration personnel and an office for these people should be prepared.’ ‘We provide all possible forms of news such as broadcasting news, podcast talk shows as far as they can be televised to the public.’ ‘When over a million investors are recruited, we consider entering cable channel market as well.’ ‘We put out invester recruitment advertisement when all practical matters are planned out.’
Although public sentiment on the need for new broadcasting system is quite staggering now, there also are concerns as well. Public broadcasting requires astronomical amount of capital. Paid-up capital of specialized news reporting channel <Yonhapnews TV> launched in Dec. 2011 was 60 billion. It is also known that 40 million is needed on average to make an episode of MBC <PD Journal> program besides payroll cost. Recruiting specialized broadcasting crew is also a problematic issue. <People’s TV> preparation group targets 70 but it is uncertain whether they can secure this many experienced people. When newspaper Hankyoreh was launched in 1988, not only those laid off in 1970s during free press movement and in 1980 during media merger and abolition but also many in other media workers also joined it. The cable channel option makes the whole equation much more complicated because the channel permission right stays with the government agency Korea Communication Commission. This also makes it imperative that the broadcasting firm should not be too inclined to opposition.
Professor Kyu-chan Jeon of Korean National University of Arts said “Plan for <People’s TV> itself is indeed viable. The effectiveness of traditional form of broadcasting through institutionalized broadcasting firms is already over. The thing that substituted the point where mainstream media failed was novel form of distributed journalism movement (such as podcasts and SNS) and it needs to be pondered upon seriously if it is an appropriate choice to turn to conventional broadcasting form at this moment. It should also be pondered upon if the broadcasting that instigates political excitement is really appropriate. Before talking about channels and contents, reflection and introspection on why opposition sphere failed in the presidential election should come first.”
To these worries, producer Yong-min Kim said “The issues of capital and manpower depend on how many people would join the cooperation. If we use top-notch technology, we can cut down the cost substantially compared with conventional broadcasting firms.” and added “we will broadcast news items not inclined to opposition spheres; rather we will tell right or wrong impartially. We do not seek for ‘pro-opposition party’ items; we will rather look for ‘anti-ruling party’ items. We will not broadcast ‘biased news’; we will broadcast ‘news that shy away from they-are-both-wrong stance’.”