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Limits to freedom in public service broadcasting: the case of South Korea


South Korea’s public service broadcasting sector comprises a unique combination of editorial independence and government influence, which primarily rises from the South Korean president’s authority to appoint key media figures in the public sector. While this does not necessarily lead to restraints on freedom of speech, it leaves public service broadcasters (PSBs) vulnerable to interference when those at the top of government seek to shape media content and editorial tone. A study of the years 2008–2017 demonstrates one such case, in which former Presidents Lee Myung Bak and Park Geun Hey used the power of appointment to steer PSB news content in favor of their respective administrations. The reactions among PSB journalists and staff show they actively resist the government when they feel their independence is compromised. The paper concludes that such resistance is of limited effect as long as the power of appointment lies in the hands of the president. Only policy change that grants complete independence can guarantee freedom of speech among public broadcasters in South Korea.

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  1. While MBC relies on advertising for its revenue, it is closely tied to the government through ownership. The government-funded Foundation for Broadcast Culture (FBC) maintains a 70% share in MBC, and the 11 members of the FBC’s board of governors are nominated by the Korean Communications Commission and appointed by the president of South Korea.


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Correspondence to John Christopher Carpenter PhD.

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Carpenter, J.C. Limits to freedom in public service broadcasting: the case of South Korea. Publizistik 66, 353–369 (2021).

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  • South Korea
  • Public service broadcasting
  • Editorial independence
  • Media policy