DAVAO CITY – A local chapter of a journalist group said it is outraged over the termination of around 200 employees of a television network a little over a week before the commemoration of the International Labor Day.

Jefry Tupas, chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Davao City Chapter, said the GMA Network’s pre-Labor Day termination of its regional station employees “shows the shocking truth about media organizations controlled by capitalists who consider journalism more of a business enterprise than a public service.”

In news reports, several employees of the GMA Network in Cebu and Cagayan de Oro were surprised to receive notices of their separation from the company without any advanced notice.

There is no exact data as to how many of the employees lost their jobs but in reports, the number ranges from 80 to 100.

In its official statement GMA said the move is a “strategic streamlining being undertaken by the Network is geared towards increasing ratings and revenues of all of its regional stations for more efficient operations.”

“We are not closing down any regional station. Pending completion of the study and recommendation of the Regional TV Review Committee, all the existing regional stations other than Cebu, Iloilo, Davao and  Dagupan will be continued as satellite selling stations,” said GMA.

GMA also said that “(t)hough some regional programs in the morning and afternoon were cancelled, the afternoon news programs of Cebu, Iloilo, Davao and  Dagupan remain and will be further strengthened.”

In Davao City, morning show Una Ka Bai aired its last show Friday but afternoon news program Saksi still aired afternoon of Monday.

The network also said that “(a)s mentioned in our earlier statement, all affected personnel will be offered severance packages.”

It also said that “this undertaking is not connected to the impending talks with Mr. Ramon S. Ang” who reportedly bought 30 percent of the network last year.

In a February 9 post in its website this year, GMA claims to be the “No.1 station in the country”, while in a November 14 post last year said “(l)eading broadcast company GMA Network (GMA) reported a net income of P422 million in Q3 2014, up 66 percent versus the previous quarter.”

But Tupas said “strategic streamlining” are “sweet words for business as usual for the company at the peril of its workers.”

He said “satellite selling stations” is “marketing jargon for profit-only venture of the network, which completely disregards media’s supposed social contract in society,  its obligation to serve the public interest before profit.”

“It raises many questions about how media owners undermine and circumvent labors laws to serve their corporate interests, devalue employees who are mostly journalists, and put the media’s role in a democracy in total jeopardy,” said Tupas.

Tupas said that “regional stations play a crucial role in the delivery of information relevant  to the communities where they are located.”

“(B)ut just because they are deemed unprofitable, these stations are now being closed.”

He said that “in a country touted as one of the world’s most dangerous place for journalists to work, what the profit-oriented network is doing only worsens the situation of journalists, who are not only being killed by bullets but also by the ruthless exploitation and oppression by corporate media owners.”

Tupas “call(s) on all journalists, media workers and citizens to unite and fight this latest onslaught on journalists’  rights, which is also an attack on press freedom and the people’s right to know.”(davaotoday.com)

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