The one-person media.
To say media is evolving may well be an understatement. It is metamorphosing thanks to various devices and platforms. Smartphones especially have been leading the “one-person” media as well as the multi-channel network (MNC).
The popularity of one-person media is shown on network MBC’s program “My Little Television.” It features celebrities and experts from different fields, such as a hair stylist and a chef, broadcasting their expertise over the Internet.
The concept of the show came from the format of Afreeca TV, short for “Any Free broadcasting,” which is a peer-to-peer (P2P) technology-based video streaming service. It started a W beta service in 2005, and officially established under the name of Afreeca in 2007. The site mainly retransmits TV channels, but later it allowed users to upload their own videos and shows in real time. Users can participate via a chat box attached to the screen during the Afreeca TV broadcast.
Since it established itself as a MNC platform, Afreeca TV has developed a reputation for leading the trend of mass culture by providing tons of media content in various fields including games and sports.
However, as smartphones spread quickly in the nation, YouTube has carved out its niche. Many users hosting their own channels on AfreecaTV also go on YouTube. As a result, star “YouTube Creators” have been born. Among them, Na Dong-hyun, who operates a channel that provides a walk-through for popular games under the name “Great Library,” has more than 1 million subscribers, with the videos having a combined 400 million views.
Park Su-hye, who runs cosmetics and make-up tutorials under the name “Ssin,” also has nearly 700,000 subscribers and garners 100 million views.
The nation’s leading web portals, Naver’s TV Cast and Kakao’s Daum TV Pot, have been chasing although they are latecomers.
According to data collected by DMC Media, more than 40 percent of Koreans use YouTube as a video platform. Naver’s TV Cast follows with 14.1 percent, Facebook has 12.8 percent and Daum TV Pot takes 6.2 percent.
First-generation media platform Afreeca TV placed out of the list, the data showed. But Afreeca TV remains popular and influential, with networks imitating the content formats from Afreeca TV, such as the widely popular food and cooking-related shows that Korean channels busily air these days. Ironically, because of its popularity in Korea, Afreeca TV has seen its share of tough times. The Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC) ordered the permanent video hosting suspension of a broadcasting jockey (BJ) on Afreeca TV for using obscene words during her broadcasts at the end of August.
KCSC said the BJ described sexual relations and exposed body parts while teenagers were watching.
There also is controversy over money earned through the channels.
A popular BJ, Kim Eve, reportedly earned more than 300 million won ($2.65 million) in 2013 with star balloons. Another popular BJ, YD, hosting a gaming channel on YouTube and Afreeca TV, earned 400 million won with the balloons last year.
Although Afreeca TV seems to have lost its presence, it is still a leading platform for one-person broadcasting. But the profit system has ignited some issues.
Shadows of one-person media
As the popularity of one-person media has been growing, overheated competition has prompted many video hosts to do strange, sometimes bizarre, things.
BJ Lee Ki-gwang hosted Yoot Game, a traditional Korean game, with viewers during August. To participate, viewers were asked to send 40 to 70 star balloons to the BJ. Because each star balloon costs 60 to 70 won, it was akin to asking the viewers “illegally” to bet 4,000 won to 7,000 won to join the game.
Another BJ, BJ God-Sungeun, showed himself eating two dishes of black-bean-sauce noodles on a bus in July. In another episode, BJ aimed his camera at a monk, asking “Why did you become a monk?” and “Do you believe in Jesus?”
He also showed himself driving and ignoring traffic lights.
BJ Chulgoo aired himself playing “Until Dawn,” which is not allowed for minors, without proper blocking of under-age viewers.
One user, identified only by his surname Kim, said he had complained when he saw any problem broadcasts. The company’s reply: “We will look through our operation rule.”
“Afreeca TV can hardly regulate popular BJs,” Kim said. “The more the BJs make earnings, the more the company makes profits, too.”
Media changing is inevitable
Sung Yun-sook, a senior researcher at the National Youth Policy Institute (NYPI), said individuals now enjoy more rights thanks to technological advancements but they come with less responsibility.
“We can’t regulate or abuse their rights and freedom, but it is true the basic rules for using the Internet are still inadequate to deal with those many problems in this country,” Sung said in a report.
Researcher Jang Keun-young of NYPI said it is almost impossible to control the emerging new forms of media and that change is inevitable.
“If it is unavoidable, it has to land softly with adequate rules,” he said.
An analyst at a securities company, who requested anonymity, said BJs stick to suggestive materials and topics because they make money from items sent by viewers. If viewers and those broadcasting companies keep closing their eyes to them, all the industry related to the media will end up being destroyed, he said.
“Hence, the service provider has to make virtuous circulation of the digital content industry by setting up clear criteria.”