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KBS producers join strike against 'biased' news coverage

2014/05/23 14:22

SEOUL, May 23 (Yonhap) -- Hundreds of TV and radio producers of the nation's leading broadcaster KBS launched a one-day work boycott on Friday, demanding that the company president resign over alleged editorial interference in favor of the government.

They joined KBS journalists who have been boycotting news production since Monday calling for the resignation of the company head, practically disrupting the network's news reporting function.

An association of KBS producers said the network's some 600 producers in charge of making around 140 TV and radio programs were taking part in the work boycott that began at midnight.

The strike is unlikely to immediately disrupt the broadcasting services because many of the programs have already been produced by outside production firms. However, producers may extend the boycott depending on the result of their ongoing plenary meeting.

Gil Hwan-young, the KBS president, came under fire after Kim Si-gon, former bureau chief of KBS news, disclosed last week that Gil yielded to the Blue House office's pressure to produce news reports favorable to the Park Geun-hye administration, especially in the coverage of last month's ferry disaster.

The chief editor said that Cheong Wa Dae officials have repeatedly pressed him for news favorable to the administration while Gil also has directly ordered him to remove or add particular news items.

Kim said that Cheong Wa Dae also pressed him to refrain from airing news critical of the Coast Guard, the government maritime police agency at the center of public criticism for its botched rescue attempt following the April 16 ferry sinking. The accident, one of South Korea's worst maritime disasters, left more than 300 people, mostly teenage students, dead or missing.

Gil has rejected the allegations and said that he has no plans to step down. The refusal prompted the KBS journalists to indefinitely extend their boycott, originally scheduled only for Monday. Most of the news programs by the broadcaster have since been shortened or canceled entirely.

On Friday, two labor unions of the broadcasting station convened a news conference at a site near the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, demanding the KBS president's resignation and President Park Geun-hye's apology over the suspected government censorship of news reporting.

One of the unions, with about 1,200 members comprising mainly reporters and producers, is to wrap up the three-day vote to decide whether to launch a full-scale strike at 7 p.m. The old union, with about 2,500 members who are mostly engineers, will continue a similar vote until Tuesday.

sshim@yna.co.kr

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