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Fellows' Papers
Journalism & Democracy

A Comparison of Media Reports about Diplomatic Conflicts

Ji Young Seo is an experienced television reporter at the Politics and Foreign Affairs Office of the Korean Public Broadcasting Service (KBS).  She was in Oxford for the calendar year 2013, as one of the two journalist fellows sponsored by the Foundation for Broadcast Culture in South Korea.In her research entitled A Comparison of Media Reports about Diplomatic Conflicts: a strategy to address territorial disputes beyond nationalism, Ji Young focuses on the pressures faced by journalists when covering diplomatic conflicts which are strongly related to the perceived national and historical interests of a country. She takes two case studies of the disputes between South Korea and Japan over the Dodko/Takeshima islands and between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Falkland/Malvinas in the south Atlantic. She examined the coverage of the disputes in two recent time periods to look at the way the public service broadcasters (PSBs) in the four countries differed in their treatments (KBS in Korea, NHK in Japan, the BBC in the UK, and TV Pública in Argentina). She focused on PSBs because  ‘they are normally expected to adhere to strict editorial guidelines to make sure that their reports remain within journalistic conventions such as neutrality, impartiality, balance and accuracy which are not strictly required of the print media’. Her study addressed two key questions: Is it possible for journalists to be impartial when they cover national-interest issues – and to what extent do government regulations or media guidelines support them? What are the elements of pressure faced when public broadcast journalists cover territorial issues, and how can they overcome these pressures to establish a well-oriented media approach to diplomatic conflicts? Ji Young analysed the pressures on PSBs through four key variables: the historical background to the disputes; the political or public influence over journalists; the ‘de facto’ position of the islands; and the journalists’ relationship to their sources. Amongst her many interesting conclusions are that: "strong and usable editorial guidelines are a crucial and important tool for every PSB seeking to fulfil its core mission of serving the public’s interests. Editorial guidelines make journalists look beyond the claims of populist and nationalistic politicians and educate the public about the genuine issues and history of disputes. It is also the role of the media to provide the population with an understanding of the other side of the story; for example, KBS should have provided more coverage of Japanese perspectives and explain why the Japanese keep insisting on the sovereignty of Dokdo. This might lead Koreans to understand better the historical background and react in a more rational way instead of being so highly emotional about this issue."