What is Internet Media?
Have you heard about guitarist Jung Sung-ha? He’s a finger-style guitarist. When he was in elementary school, he posted his guitar playing video on YouTube, and his video became viral. He took advantage of that opportunity and is now one of the most famous guitarists in the world. He often posted his own music or pop song arrangements for guitar songs on YouTube. His videos had 50-1,500 million hits. The case of guitarist Jung Sung-ha is one of the cases that show new media’s effect on the public. New media is unlike traditional media in shape, but it plays the same role.
New media comes in many forms. In the past, based on paper, analog media was the mainstream. The development of technology triggered the digital-media era through the invention of the television and radio. Then, when the Internet emerged, the networking era began. People can easily get in touch with one another, and there is a venue for each individual to speak up. That is, various forms of new media have appeared. Such forms of new media help each individual or group to wield a strong influence. Typical forms of new media are YouTube, SNS, Internet press, podcast, and personal broadcasting.
Facebook and Twitter are the famous existing examples of SNS, a form of media that allows people to easily get in touch with their friends, to keep abreast with social issues, to advertise, etc.
“Podcast” is a coined word that is a combination of “iPod” and “broadcast.”In podcasting, people choose a podcasting channel and automatically subscribe to new contents. Mostly, podcasting has contributed by making MP3 files available in websites, and by making public RSS file addresses. Usually, people can download podcast files from Apple’s program iTunes or from Internet sites.
Internet radio broadcasts through the Internet. It is called “radio” but broadcasts through the Internet protocol. There are therefore various ways to watch Internet radio: with a computer, an MP3 player, or a cell phone.
Internet press is a kind of media that regularly posts news and broadcasts on the Internet, which are similar to the news and broadcasts provided by traditional media. For example, Internet press posts news only on the performing arts or on political and economic issues and on various other categories. Besides, its consumers are limited to Internet users.
Personal broadcasting is general-people broadcasting of variety shows, reports on social issues, gaming, and music, by using a camcorder. Afreeca TV and Amazon TV are two examples. A BJ (broadcasting jockey) sends a video, and the viewer chooses a channel and watches the BJ’s broadcast by program. Depending on the BJ’s popularity and the broadcast circumstances, each channel can receive 50-1,100 views at the same time. In the case of a famous BJ’s channel, more than 10 million viewers access it during the broadcasting.
The Rise of Internet Media
Internet media originated with the function of overcoming the people’s distrust and disgust of politics, and of triggering the public’s active political participation. “I am Kkomsu” was the first program that stimulated the public’s participation in politics. It started its broadcasting in April 27, 2011. Although “I am Kkomsu” eventually ended i t s broadcasting, i t demonstrated its huge influence in South Korea when it criticized President Lee Myung-bak’s regime, traditional media, and the political and religious worlds for almost one year. Such criticism served as a window for the settlement of the dissatisfaction with the traditional politics and media,and “I am Kkomsu” successfully made the public participate in politics. The Facebook page “Ahn’s Speaker” has the same function as “I am Kkomsu.” “Ahn’s Speaker” updated candidate Ahn’s opinion and made it lively through its Facebook page, and almost 57,000 people liked with candidate Ahn’s opinion. Following this sensation, candidate Ahn was proclaimed winner and then posted his media conference schedules on his Facebook page “Ahn’s Speaker.” Most experts apprised that candidate Ahn used his Facebook page as a political tool. This sensation led the public to develop an interest in politics and to participate in it.
Recently, on the broadcasting of the Sewol ferry disaster, Internet press media like Go-Bal News and Fact TV attracted the public’s attention. Unlike traditional media, Internet press provided on-the-spot news through streaming broadcast. Especially, traditional media’s continuous correction of its erroneous reports has made the public distrust it. As for the Internet press media, using streaming broadcast technology, it reported direct repeaters, which enabled it to gain the public’s trust.
In the case of MBN, it interviewed Hong Ga-hye, who proclaimed herself a private diver. During the interview, she said, “The Maritime Police disturbed the private divers’ relief work.” After the television broadcast of the MBN interview, the Maritime Police proclaimed that “there was no sabotage of the private divers’ relief work, and on the day of the MBN interview, the Maritime Police officers worked with 70 private divers.” In relation to this controversial interview, MBN chief reporter Lee Dong-won eventually issued a formal apology on MBN News. Fortunately, Jeonnam Provincial Police Agency successfully arrested Hong Ga-hye for spreading false information. This kind of broadcasting by traditional media based on false information has triggered major criticisms. Meanwhile, the Internet press media televised Pangmok Port’s site live to the public, in real time.
The traditional media’s continued reporting of false information and continued correction of its erroneous reports are the main reasons for the public’s distrust of it, and explain why the public started focusing on Internet media. This is another fault of traditional media. Despite the fact that KBS is a national disaster broadcast, it televised the “Sewol ferry disaster” and caused a newsflash competition. Also, when President Park Geun-hye visited Pangmok Port, KBS fabricated its broadcast to conceal the bereaved families’ complaints about the President’s poor handling of the crisis; instead, it showed the bereaved families welcoming President Park’s visit. On the other hand, JTBC also made mistakes during the interview. That is, when a journalist of JTBC interviewed a survivor, he asked the survivor, “Do you know if your friends died?” His inappropriate question caused public outrage. Moreover, there is the problem of the South Korean media’s newsflash competition and problems regarding some journalists’ unethical attitude during interviews. Most people think that as shown by the Sewol ferry disaster episode, the South Korean news media should take time out for introspection.
How About Personal Broadcasting?
As mentioned earlier, personal broadcasting is normal-people broadcasting on various themes, using a camcorder. Afreeca TV is the biggest Internet personal broadcasting site in South Korea. In Internet broadcast, first, the BJ broadcasts a channel through an Internet circuit. Then the viewers receive the BJ’s broadcast channel through a program, and they choose a broadcast channel that suits their taste. In the case of the best BJ’s broadcast channel, there are up to 1,600 simultaneous viewers. The broadcast’s themes are diverse, not only gaming or news broadcasting but even job broadcasts. From young people to 70-year-old men, the BJs fall within a broad range of ages and nationalities, and span both normal people and celebrities.
Following the trend, the BJs are joining public TV. In 2011, Ongamenet’s “G man game terminator,” a program emceed by only the BJs of Afreeca TV, was launched. Choi Koon, who is now a comedian on MBC, was the first “man” in the said program. Before he was recruited as a comedian, he broadcasted at Afreeca TV and was awarded the Afreeca TV Broadcasting Award in 2011. Aside from Choi Koon, lots of BJs broadcasted “Infinite Challenge,” “Vj Team,” “Master of Living,” and other TV programs. Singer Made (Kim So-hee) is another Afreeca TV BJ who joined public TV. BJ Dolph (Ji Sung-ha) is another case. He broadcasted his Afreeca TV broadcast while doing gigs as an underground singer. He released some records: the digital single “Travel,” “Annoying,” and “Gateway.” Also, this year, he released his new record named “VOOM.”
As shown by the foregoing, Afreeca TV has become a venue for conversation. Anyone who has a camcorder and a computer can become a BJ. People create their own broadcast channel about various topics. Most of Afreeca TV’s main viewers at present are teenagers and those in their twenties. They watch a broadcast channel that suits their own taste, and chat with the BJs and the other viewers to know the other viewers’ lifestyles or to make friends.
Negative Effects on Personal Broadcasting
Despite the good things about Afreeca TV, there are also some negative things about it. First, as Afreeca TV broadcasts based on the BJ’s personality, it has some notorious broadcasts. Also, Afreeca TV has “Star Balloons” and “Stickers,” which the viewers give or send to the BJ in exchange for money. Some of the BJs have broadcasted lascivious things to receive more Star Balloons and Stickers. Apart from this, there is also a copyright problem. Afreeca TV has broadcasting rights with KBO (Korea Baseball Organization) and KBL (Korea Basketball League) so lots of people broadcast sports matches on Afreeca TV. Some BJs, however, use their broadcasting channel to incite the viewers to engage in illegal gambling. In response to that, Afreeca TV began monitoring all its broadcasting channels. When Afreeca TV finds a site that incites the viewers to illegal betting, it suspends the BJ for at least seven days. If the BJ accesses another account, however, while under suspension, Afreeca TV has no way of stopping him.
Apart from this, in 2008, a female BJ exposed her naked body. Police said that “she exposed her naked body so she would receive more Star Balloons. There was a similar case of a male BJ disclosing his genitals during his broadcasting. Afreeca TV permanently banned the BJ, but he soon rebroadcasted using another account. That triggered huge criticism, with some people even proclaiming that Afreeca TV should be dismantled. In May 2011, a lascivious incident was brought up, and Korea Communications Standards Commission started intensive monitoring. In spite of this, however, a sexual abuse incident took place, a male BJ raped his fan club members. According to the police’s investigation, the BJ raped 10 teenagers, who happened to be his fan club members, luring them to his house and raping them there for three years. This BJ broadcasted a gaming channel since 2010 and was once the 7th most popular BJ. He lured his female fan club members by texting to them the following message: “I’m so tired after broadcasting for a long time; can you give me a massage?” or “I want to have a date with you.” His crime was revealed during his broadcast, when a female viewer chatted “I was raped by him” in December 2011. After the chat, lots of other women proclaimed that they, too, had been raped by the BJ. The BJ issued an apology and then disappeared. Eventually, he was imprisoned by the police.
The Direction of Internet Media
As mentioned earlier, the development of Internet technology made Internet media highly accessible to us, but we should also think about the negative effects of Internet media. What measures have we taken to prevent its negative effects? ST interviewed Prof. Park Woong-ki (Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and Advertising) to ask him for his opinions on this.
ST: Compared with traditional media, what are the good points of SNS or Internet media,and in what direction is Internet media changing?
Park: Internet media has the advantage of providing a venue for individuals to express their opinions. It now also has a news function. It also spreads wild rumors, though, and has lascivious broadcasts. As such, the viewers should be careful when accessing Internet media.
ST: What are the negative aspects of Internet media, and how can these be addressed?
Park: As I’ve mentioned, the showing of disorder and intemperance on individual broadcasts, and excessive commercials, can be considered problems. Thus, we need mature citizens who abide by the law, and each individual should do self-examination in terms of the ethical and moral aspects.
ST: Why do people watch the Internet media programs, and what is Internet media’s role in the future?
Park: Internet media has various sides, like diverse and entertaining. It plays a new role, which traditional media couldn’t, and I think that Internet media can substitute for traditional media in the future in terms of the role to be played by it.
As shown above, as Internet media plays roles similar to those played by traditional media, it also has lots of negative aspects. Thus, Internet media must report impartially based on accurate information. The viewers should also carefully select information while encountering Internet media. In personal broadcasting, the BJs should abide by the Internet ethic and should carefully broadcast as public figures. Also, we need measures to stop inciting speculative, lascivious broadcasting.