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TV workers join strike to protest a media bill

Dec 27,2008
A growing number of television producers, anchors, reporters, technicians and other employees are joining a strike to protest legislation that would allow cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcasters.

The ruling Grand National Party yesterday tried to pass the contentious bill, which it says is aimed at strengthening the nation’s media businesses so they can compete against global giants. But the opposition Democratic Party and media labor unions contend the bill would offer control over TV news editorial content to local conglomerates.

The National Union of Media Workers, an umbrella union of local media industry workers, announced the beginning of an industry-wide strike as of yesterday morning, calling for more companies and their employees to enter the fray. Some 2,000 unionized workers of MBC, one of three major Korean broadcasting stations, joined the strike, which is the first broadcasting industry strike in nine years.

Familiar faces of well-known news anchors were conspicuously absent yesterday, while their seats were occupied by a few nonunionized workers. Production of popular entertainment shows could also soon grind to a halt. TV station SBS also joined the strike, but decided to leave some essential workers in place to maintain normal programming. But most of its news anchors dressed in black in a sign of protest.

Korea’s Vice Culture Minister Shin Jae-min said the strike is “illegal” and “immoral” for disrupting broadcasting. He said the government would “respond firmly based on law and order.”

Proposed by the Korea Communications Commission, the legislation eases restrictions on ownership of broadcasting stations. The most disputed part of the bill allows big companies with assets of more than 10 trillion won ($7.7 billion), local newspaper companies and news wire agencies to purchase up to a 20 percent stake in broadcasters. Firms with assets of less than 10 trillion won could take a 49 percent stake.


By Jung Ha-won Staff Reporter [hawon@joongang.co.kr]


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