CCDM (Citizens’ Coalition for Democratic Media) has called out SBS for their recent reporting concerning CNBLUE‘s Jung Yonghwa.
On January 16th, SBS News 8 made an exclusive report about special admissions to the famous Kyunghee University in Korea. According to the report, an unnamed idol was suspected of undergoing special treatment in order to be admitted to the doctoral program at the university. When the news broke, it soon became evident that the idol in question was Jung Yonghwa.
What followed in the days of reporting and speculation was considered to be a witch hunt by some fans, with many netizens criticizing fans for what they felt was foolishly assuming their favorite idol to be incapable of the suspected behavior.
According to FNC Entertainment and Yonghwa, they were unaware of anything abnormal in his admissions procedure and had only followed the guidelines as given to them by the school. However, news reports continued to infer that Yonghwa knowingly did not report to the required interview for admissions.
As such, a huge wave of negative opinion began to be directed at Yonghwa, leading him to announce his decision to enlist this month, canceling other scheduled activities as a result.
The CCDM is a civic group that has been active for years as an organization dedicated to calling for accountability and transparency of the media and their reports. In a detailed article published under their website, they point out that SBS seemed to unduly target Yonghwa as the source of their story (despite other people being involved), seemingly using his idol status to make their story go viral. They summarized the main problems with the report as the following:
–Problematic Headlines: CCDM posits that the headlines on both the news report and their online article from SBS used the words “idol,” “celebrity,” and “special admissions” in order to stir up public sentiment. In addition, the news report headline grabbed people’s attention by stating that the idol in question had been admitted despite receiving “a zero” on the interview, later explaining in their actual report that the zero was because an interview had never taken place.
– News Anchor Commentary: CCDM points out that the story led with the then unnamed idol star being under investigation, stating that the police had summoned both the idol and the professor for questioning and making this the focus of the case. To end the story, SBS then briefly stated that other influential people such as celebrities and businessmen were also under scrutiny and police would be expanding their investigation to them as well.
–Time Allocated To The Star During Report: In continuation of the issues concerning the anchor’s commentary, CCDM pointed out that of the 1 minute and 51 second long news report, 1 minute and 30 seconds of the report were dedicated to the supposed preferential treatment of the idol star. CCDM points out that the investigation and topic at hand was supposed to be about the graduate school providing special admissions in order to generate profit for the school. However, SBS used Yonghwa’s status as the main point of the story.
-Casting Suspicion On Other Students: The following day, SBS confirmed that the student in question during their report was CNBLUE’s Yonghwa. However, immediately following the initial report about the then unnamed idol star, some of the top searched words in Korea became “Kyunghee University” and “celebrity students.” The result was that other students (some of whom were not even in the doctoral program) were seen in a suspicious light with netizens and even tabloid-type websites speculating on who the students were. CCDM proposes that this caused damage to innocent students due to SBS’s “exploitative news” that “encouraged a media witch hunt” that still casts suspicion on the students due to being celebrities and attending the school in question.
To sum things up, CCDM stated that aggressively targeting the idol in question based solely on allegations had resulted in arousing public fury, something which they feel was “extremely inappropriate reporting by the media that runs the serious risk of human rights violations.”
They further stated that exploitative news reporting was continually repeating itself by some media outlets who use celebrities and idols as easy click bait in order to increase the media outlet’s profits.
“It has been proven once again,” CCDM stated in their article, “that the media is breaking down boundaries between reporting and tabloid truth.”