Contractualization in the media: An injustice to journalists, a travesty of public service

Altermidya or the People’s Alternative Media Network was formed to amplify the voice of the oppressed majority who, because of the corporate nature of dominant media networks, are not provided with ample space to present their issues and struggles, as well as their perspectives on pressing national issues being published by these media conglomerates. Our task as Altermidya assumes a particular significance and urgency when it is the plight and struggles of our colleagues in corporate media conglomerates that we are amplifying and supporting.

Even before the formation of Altermidya, alternative media outfits supported the struggle of ABS-CBN workers who were terminated unjustly after years of service to the Lopez-owned network.

Now, we are standing hand-in-hand with our colleagues at GMA-7 who have formed the Talents Association of GMA and filed a regularization case before the Department of Labor and Employment.

The talent system in GMA 7, which is also being practiced by other media conglomerates such as ABS-CBN, is the corporate owners’ way of skirting the provisions of the country’s Labor Code. As it is, the country’s labor laws already favor capitalists and are oppressive and exploitative to workers. And yet, these media conglomerates, such as GMA 7, still deprive their employees of the barest rights guaranteed to them by the Labor Code.
Many of those who have been working for several years up to a decade are still considered contractual employees, with their contracts renewed after every one to three years. They receive no benefits such as SSS, Pag-Ibig, Philhealth, and 13th month pay. Despite the hazards of the profession–which requires many of them to travel to remote areas and to work long hours–they receive no hazard or overtime pay. As contractuals (or “talents,” as the euphemism in the media industry goes), they suffer from the highly exploitative “no work, no pay” policy, and even worse: when their program segment does not air for any reason, they receive no pay at all.

And now, after terminating their contracts, GMA 7 has been withholding the salaries of its contractual employees.

The irony is that these journalists and media workers work for the same news and public affairs programs that assume a moral high ground and claim to be society’s watchdogs, purveyors of truth, and dispensers of public service. However, in reality, the corporate media industry is one of the worst violators of the country’s labor laws

But media companies like GMA-7 practically get away with it, with their image unspoiled, by virtue of their control over the information the public gets and a deafening silence on the issue that reverberates across the industry, across many other media companies engaged in the same labor practices. A few years ago, more than a hundred long-time ABS-CBN employees in news and public affairs programs were illegally laid off after asserting their right to regularization. The news was hardly reported in the corporate media.

It does not help that the government has not done anything to stop labor contractualization, and in fact, has been implementing policies that worsen it. That the media industry is complicit in the illegal practice spells doom for honest and critical reportage on the state of Filipino contractuals, who now comprise the majority of the country’s workforce.

It is about time that the “talents” of GMA 7 have united under the organization of TAG and have decided to fight for their rights. Using the hashtag #BuhayMedia, they have been informing the public of their plight.

As a nationwide alternative media network, we laud and support the fight of our fellow journalists and media workers for basic labor rights. We vow to help in disseminating their stories to the public through alternative media channels. We call on the courts to look into the merits of the case filed by the GMA-7 employees and act immediately to uphold labor rights. Finally, we call on other journalists and media workers with the same plight to tell their stories and like TAG, organize themselves into associations that can collectively assert their rights.

We believe that journalists should not be victims of injustice, and should fight injustice instead. But the duty of journalists in society to report truthfully and without fear is impeded by exploitative working conditions that do not encourage anything that is not profitable for the corporate media conglomerate.

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