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KBS comes out top in election coverage

From film parodies to K-pop covers, election programs combined politics with entertainment

March 10, 2022 - 15:51 By Lee Si-jin
SBS election coverage “2022 People’s Choice” shows two presidential frontrunners Lee Jae-myung (left) and Yoon Suk-yeol competing in speedskating. (SBS)
Public broadcaster KBS had the most-watched presidential election coverage on TV in Korea Wednesday night.

KBS1’s election coverage recorded a viewership rating of 11.1 percent, according to Nielsen Korea. It was the highest-rated election coverage, while SBS and MBC, which aired in the same time slot, followed with 6.1 percent and 5.6 percent viewership ratings, respectively.

Claiming that the first metaverse ballot count and the broadcaster‘s own artificial intelligence prediction program was a hit with viewers, the channel said, “KBS was the first broadcaster to predict the election in three different stages -- ‘leading,’ ‘certain’ and ‘confirmed.’”
Metaverse platform ifland and KBS livestream the ballot count broadcast Wednesday. (Lee Si-jin/The Korea Herald)

The high-tech election coverage aside, the broadcaster sought to provide in-depth analysis by having the hosts of KBS’ hit political talk show “Let’s Jeongchi 2,” former liberal politician Rhyu Si-min and right-wing lawyer Jun Won-tchack, review each candidate’s pledges and interpret results of the ballot count.

Terrestrial broadcaster SBS was more about style than substance, relying on fancy visuals, which may explain the low ratings.
“Mad Max” and K-pop girl group aespa’s “Next Level” parodies are shown on SBS’ “2022 People’s Choice” (SBS)

Dai Watanabe, a 32-year-old shop owner from Daegu, said the show reminded him of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, such as the pictogram performance.

“I thought the unexpected ‘Mad Max’ parody was both entertaining and creative, helping the viewers stay tuned to the long election coverage. I wasn’t able to stay awake until the end, I am certain that the show made many people laugh,” Watanabe told The Korea Herald on Thursday.

A 26-year-old exchange student named Claire in Busan said the SBS show was entertaining enough that she watched the entire election broadcast.

“I watched SBS’ previous presidential election coverage featuring ‘Game of Thrones’ on YouTube. That was the reason I tuned into SBS yesterday. I never expected to see the candidates dance to aespa’s ‘Next Level,’” Claire said.

“I also liked how the candidates were using sign language as the exit poll results were announced,” she added.

Many viewers were excited about SBS’ “Mad Max” parody and Winter Olympic events featuring leading presidential candidates Lee Jae-myung and Yoon Seok-yeol as well.

Though many might have enjoyed the flashy presentation, some were concerned about the substance of SBS’ election coverage.

“The show was visually pleasing, but the level of discussion and analysis was lacking compared to KBS,” a commenter said on the SBS election coverage YouTube video.
Miniature versions of jajangmyeon, or noodles in black bean sauce, are presented during MBC’s “Choice 2022” (MBC)

Meanwhile, local broadcaster MBC introduced a dose of culture into its coverage, showcasing 3D models of Korean landmarks, traditional works of art, Pinkfong’s “Baby Shark” animation and miniature versions of representative foods from each of the Korean provinces and metropolitan cities.
A screenshot of JTBC’s ballot count program shows the late President Roh Moo-hyun brought back to life with artificial intelligence. (JTBC)

Cable channel JTBC broke ranks by conducting its own exit poll and integrating AI technologies to resurrect deceased former Presidents Park Chung-hee, Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. However, the effort was not enough to win viewers’ hearts or eyeballs, as the show recorded a viewership rating of 3.02 percent, according to Nielsen Korea.

By Lee Si-jin (