An MBC union strike of unprecedented scale
Labor unions at MBC announced an 'unprecedentedly high intensity labor strike' this past August to protest management abuse and interference in news coverage as well as severe working conditions. The strike began on September 4th, with 95.7% turnout. The union is strongly demanding freedom of speech, restoration of independence, fair reporting and requesting executives to resign from management.
The MBC strike is not so unfamiliar to us. In 2012, MBC declared a strike demanding the retirement of President Kim Jae-Cheol. At that time, only one-third of the total number of employees participated in the strike, and the rest of the employees seemed to have divided opinions because the rest of the members had made it clear that they did not support the strike. However, this time the conditions are very different. It will be more powerful than any other media strike’s impact to scale. The union said, "All union members are participating without accepting the necessary manpower.” 80 news reporters, major entertainment programs and radio broadcasting production designers (PDs), scriptwriters for TV programs, and journalists have begun to reject broadcasts. As a result of the strike from midnight on the 4th, a lot of regular programs of MBC TV have disappeared, and all the radio programs have been changed to the music program "Radio Music Travel".
In situations where broadcasting is inevitable, MBC management said reporters and PDs who participated in the strike will be facing reassignment and the network would recruit career reporters.
The conflict between MBC executives and labor unions wasn’t an overnight conflict. It began about 9 years ago when the intervention of political power seized MBC management. The roots of the tree decayed little by little over the past nine years, and the tree has finally fallen now. Some executives have been pawns of politicians in power. They have been practicing discrimination by replacing PDs, restricting broadcasts, and criticizing employees that are openly critical of the situation regarding ratings. MBC’s representative topical programs such as ‘PD Note’, ‘Who+’ and ‘W’ were removed because of their critical reports. Kim Yun-Gook, president of the union, said, "It is now time to end the dark age of free press, the chaos of media freedom and I will drive out puppets of political power who have dedicated public broadcasting to power.” Several weeks ago, an arrest warrant was issued for MBC President Kim Jang-Gyeom who repressed freedom of speech for questioning alleged unfair labor practices at the network.
This strike is special because of the unity behind it. The freedom of press movement has been gaining increasing support among people nationwide. Not only MBC anchors, but announcers, producers, and many reporters, as well as journalists from other media outlets, journalism professors, and other NGOs all over the country are supporting the strike. It is truly an exceptional strike.
But at the same time, there are also several voices of concern. MBC strikes have been over for a few weeks and President Kim has been arrested by prosecutors. Both sides, workers and management, are unlikely to find a clue to resolve the situation. So it is argued that the Korea Communications Commission should mediate negotiations between the two sides in order to prevent prolonged strikes and normalize broadcasting.
While the strike is positive in that it has gained public support and consent, the invisible forces of the political party, which is a party to the strike, are actually going to just stand idly by. Will the strike be able to bring about the freedom of the press or will it just end with a visible victory of cutting off one president and a few executives?
|Will the strike be able to bring true freedom of the press?|
By Sarah Park, reporter
Sarah Park firstname.lastname@example.org
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