SEOUL, Jan. 24 (Korea Bizwire) – Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon has pledged to shed light on the poor working conditions in the broadcasting industry after a TV producer took his own life due to overwork and stress.
Park announced on Wednesday plans to offer full-time employment to freelancers at the city-owned radio and TV station TBS in a move to help industry employees cope with anxiety issues over employment stability and a lack of labor rights protection.
“Demanding over 20 hours of work in a day, having workers sleep for two to three hours before calling them back to the set, and pushing those who are already exhausted even further to get the ideal results. It’s the life I despised the most which I struggled to continue living,” said Park in reading the suicide note left by Lee Han-bit during a press conference today.
Lee’s death sparked debate over the extremely long working hours and abject disregard for workers’ rights in the broadcasting industry, prompting the Seoul Metropolitan Government to set an example at the city-owned broadcasting network TBS.
“I hope (the measure) will see other broadcasting networks and media outlets do more to protect freelancers,” Park said in announcing plans for TBS freelancers to be hired as full-time employees.
At TBS, a TV and radio network owned by the Seoul Metropolitan Government that specializes in traffic reporting, over 9 in 10 employees are contract workers.
Things aren’t that different at other government-owned networks such as KBS and EBS, where 55 percent and 32.7 percent of employees, respectively, are contract workers.
Compared to state-owned broadcasting networks in other countries such as the BBC in Britain and ARD in Germany, where 9 percent and 23.3 percent of employees are contract workers, the Seoul government says that nearly five times more contract workers are being hired by state-owned networks in South Korea.
Despite the glamorous exterior of the broadcasting industry, a significant number of workers in the industry go without basic legally-mandated workplace protection, with some of them finding it difficult to even report sexual harassment and human rights violations.
In one survey, an overwhelming majority of broadcast writers said they hadn’t signed a standard contract, with 1 in 10 having experienced delayed payment for their work.
Hyunsu Yim (email@example.com)