What To Do About Media Fabrications

      June 27, 2008 10:59

      The Korea-U.S. beef accord was reached on April 18. At that time, there were hardly any rumors floating around that eating American beef would lead to one contracting the human form of mad cow disease or variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). But just 15 days later on May 2, citizens began holding candlelight vigils with junior high school students holding placards saying they were too young to die.

      What triggered the panic in a previously calm public was the April 29 edition of the MBC current affairs program “PD Diary,” which questioned whether U.S. beef was safe. With the program as a starting point, other broadcasters began a full-court offensive in instilling the belief among Koreans that eating American beef would lead to vCJD. Even though the whole world has now learned that the key claims made by “PD Diary” were either fabricated or intentional distortions of facts, the irresponsible claims made by “PD Diary” intensified as they spread through the Internet, creating a mad cow scare.

      Following the “PD Diary” broadcast, the main MBC nightly news program aired three straight days of special reports on the dangers of U.S. beef, allotting up to 13 pieces out of 25 to the beef issue. Everywhere on MBC, we saw images of downer cows, brainwashing viewers that American beef equals mad cow disease. On May 4, MBC News repeated the irresponsible claim by “PD Diary” that downer cows were ruled as fit for human consumption even though they were under suspicion of being stricken with BSE.

      The main evening news at KBS allotted up to 16 out of 28 pieces to the U.S. beef issue. KBS also aired numerous bits of footage of downer cows to stir fears. News reports on that broadcaster said vCJD could be transmitted through blood, while products like instant noodles, capsules for drugs and cosmetics could also transmit the disease. Almost all of the claims were either unsubstantiated or simply false.

      The KBS program “Current Affairs Tonight” reported on May 5 that the largest-ever recall of beef took place in the United States in February, involving 64,000 tons, over suspicions of BSE. But the recall had nothing to do with mad cow disease. These exaggerations, fabrications and rumors continued to be broadcast on morning programs geared to housewives, on entertainment programs and on the radio. They were enough to convince even a reasonably objective person.

      While they were spreading such fears, TV networks have ignored the fact that not one person in the U.S. has been found to have come down with vCJD. The only reference to that fact was through short comments made in passing by government officials. TV broadcasters have been unable to see that so far this year, not one person around the world has fallen ill due to mad cow disease.

      Mad cow disease was discovered in Canada recently, but there was no hysteria in that country. The media did not stir such fears. The mad cow scare, which erupted around the world in early 2000, has calmed to rational levels in most countries around the world. But the violent power of Korean TV networks has created mass hysteria here. The real motive behind the triggering of the mad cow scare will become clear in the days ahead.

      Such networks call themselves “public broadcasters.” If they had any semblance of being public broadcasters, they would have apologized to the public by now. But “PD Diary” is behaving as if it has done nothing wrong. The time has to come when the public, which has been turned into a laughing stock, will see the real faces of Korean broadcasters, hiding behind the mask of public duty.
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