3 reasons why portal news services resemble populism


Professor Chae Young-gil’s presentation at the Political Communication Society
The illusion of free choice, hostility and distrust of the existing system
Criticism of “citizens, media, and portal bottlenecks”

A painting that expresses the media air trapped in a bottleneck. Excerpt from Professor Chae Young-gil’s presentation

“Naver says that most of its 20 million users see news edited by media, and only 30% see algorithm news. What should be noted is the fact that 20 million people see the messages of a single medium called Naver. Isn’t our society too insensitive to this?”
Controversy over ‘journalism devastation’ in the portal system in Korean societyDespite this growing controversy, the focus has been on the relationship between the portal as a distributor and the media as the producer. Chae Young-gil, a professor in the Department of Media and Communication at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, who has been actively speaking about portal issues in broadcasting, has a slightly different approach. It is his idea that we should look at it as a matter of populism and democracy in our society, beyond simply who is more responsible or the distribution of profits between production and distribution. At the seminar of the Korean Society for Political Science and Communication held at the Mok-dong Broadcasting Center in Seoul last week, Professor Chae pointed out, “The news business of portals stimulates or reproduces the characteristics of populist communication.” First of all, it is ‘popular confidence’ that captures the tastes and preferences of the general public. Muller once described populism as a ‘metapolitical illusion’ (, Marty). Although the portal promotes that news services are only ‘the result of individual users’ free choice’, Professor Chae says, “In fact, it is a highly systematic and sophisticated program that encloses both producers and citizens in a single principle.” The second is that it “socially manipulates hostile and dichotomous communication”. In the space of the portal’s political discourse and comments, groups with different ideologies or opinions are regarded as enemies, or it is pointed out that the logic of extinction and exclusion plays a major role. Professor Chae sees this as being in line with Chantal Mouffe’s point that “populists construct a political boundary that divides society into two camps and are based on democratic anti-liberalism that suppresses the freedom of other groups through freedom.” The third theory is that, just as populism is based on distrust and alienation of the existing system, portals “provide a unique and monopolistic media outlet while replacing distrust of established media”. According to the Media Foundation’s ‘2020 Media Audience Survey’, 77.6% of those in their twenties think that portals are the media, and 26.1% think that Naver is the most influential media company in Korea.

The Korean Political Communication Association is holding a seminar on portal issues at the Mok-dong Broadcasting Center in Seoul on the 5th.

The Korean Political Communication Association is holding a seminar on portal issues at the Mok-dong Broadcasting Center in Seoul on the 5th.

Whether or not you agree with his argument, it is clear that Korea is uniquely structured in such a way that it cannot go out into the open field without going through the ‘bottleneck’ of the portal. In the recently released publication, 72% of South Koreans answered that the main route for using news was through portals, overwhelmingly exceeding the average of 33% in 46 countries. Professor Chae said that although portals are not news providers, due to various additional services and the illusion that ‘individuals can freely choose’ or a sense of efficacy, “The news industry that provides the exclusive news distribution network of Korean society beyond the status of a news service provider. It completes the complex.” In the context of the problem that portals reproduce and reinforce the biased and unfair system centered on the existing giant media in the new media environment, he uses the expression ‘news industry complex’. Whenever the softening and low quality of news comes to the fore, the explanation that ‘users pay attention to provocative articles’ has been repeated. Professor Chae said, “When the sensational and sensual news consumption behavior is shifted solely to the individual user’s responsibility, the ideal of a ‘democratic citizen’ that rational deliberation on emotional issues is possible through a rational mechanism becomes more and more tangible.” Worried. Leaving the bottleneck of the portal alone and pointing out the citizens’ problems only reinforces the perception that citizens are “not a responsible subject of public opinion, but a personalized, sensuous news consumer.” The recent revelation of Frances Hogan, who worked as a product manager at Facebook, raised the issue of “artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that amplify divisive content and promote hate speech and misinformation” () in the United States. Korean portals have also advocated that they ‘handed over editorial rights to the media’ or ‘use an algorithm without human intervention’. He argued that in order to face such a portal that evades social responsibility behind technology, “the discussion should be resolved on socio-political issues, not market economy issues.” This seminar was not a place to propose specific solutions. However, it drew attention in that it analyzed how the portal structure itself ‘transforms’ citizens and democracy. Professor Chae quoted Moupe’s words in his speech, saying, “The problem can only be solved by restructuring the unequal, single, and monopolistic communication structure called the bottleneck in a pluralistic, egalitarian and democratic way.” I thought it might be a point to consider in discussing the Korean portal issue. Written by Kim Young-hee, senior staff reporter [email protected]


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