Protest president’s alleged unilateral decision-making and political bias
Unionized workers of the nation’s second-largest terrestrial broadcaster MBC staged a general strike on Monday, demanding their president Kim Jae-chul resign over his alleged political bias and unilateral decision-making style.
The walkout is expected to halt nearly all programs at the station except for dramas and programs produced through outsourcing.
The union said that out of 1,010 members, 83.4 percent participated in voting and 69.4 percent supported strike action.
From 6:30 a.m. Monday, members ceased filming, editing and airing programs and began a sit-in.
The union declined to disclose the exact number of unionists participating in the strike but said that the majority of producers, directors, reporters and announcers have expressed willingness to join the walkout.
The strike comes after a reporter and video journalist walkout that began Jan. 25. They lambasted management for “polluting” the news with their political opinions. Due to their collective action, the primetime news program “News Desk” was curtailed to about 15 minutes.
The reporters claimed issues such as President Lee Myung-bak’s purchase of real estate under his son’s name and an incident where Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo reprimanded a 119 operator for not recognizing his voice had been omitted from their programs because Kim, a close aide of President Lee, had ordered management to ignore topics that embarrass the administration.
Reporters claimed that soft and gossip news stories were used to fill the space, they said.
They also said they were forced to make pro-government reports on sensitive issues such as half-price university tuition, the Korea- U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the Oct. 26 local by-elections. They claimed that the newsroom and production departments have been dominated by Kim’s right-hand men.
The strike also takes place 20 months after a month-long strike in May 2010 against management intervention in program content. Unionists said the current strike will continue until Kim resigns.
In a recent nationwide survey of 100 journalism professors, 79 percent said MBC had lost fairness and neutrality in its news reporting and 70 percent pointed to interference by Kim and others close to the administration as the reason.
“For a long time, the workers have requested the president to communicate with us and explain his political stance that has influenced nearly all programs. But Kim has remained silent, pressuring the workers by using his power,” Lee Yong-ma, spokesperson of the union, said.
Reporters posted an article on www.daum.net’s Agora bulletin about their decision to strike.
“For the past two years, we have not been able to counteract the unrighteous deeds and we were agonized. We do not think we will be able to make neutral and fair reports on the upcoming important events such as the April 11 general elections and the Dec. 19 presidential election. We hope you understand that we will have to change the current regime of the company to gain respect,” they said. The article had won the support of more than 16,000 Internet users as of Monday noon.
Kim spent his weekend in Japan to attend a fashion show. He has remained tightlipped over the controversy.
Lee Jin-sook, a spokeswoman of the broadcaster, told a local daily that the walkout is a politically-motivated and illegal action.
“The participants will have to face disciplinary action,” she said.
By Bae Ji-sook