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GMA-7 speaks after controversy over third-party compensation, but industry says problem is systemic

By Bim Santos Published Dec 04, 2020 4:57 am Updated Dec 04, 2020 5:48 am

GMA Public Affairs has vowed to end the practice of using third party material without pay after being embroiled in a social media controversy, though some practitioners said the problem remains deeply systemic.

“We acknowledge concerns raised about how GMA Public Affairs has been sourcing video and photos for some of its programs,” read the opening statement posted by GMA Public Affairs on Facebook and Twitter.

This has led to an internal review of our practices in relation to sourcing third party material.

The network issued the statement after photojournalist Ezra Acayan from Getty Images recently shared on social media how an overseas Filipino worker in Paris named Wilson Paguyo was made to work for free by shooting videos for GMA.

Acayan’s post showed screenshots of messages from a GMA staff directing Paguyo how to shoot specific videos and a letter containing boilerplate legalese asking Paguyo to waive fees for his work and for the network to use his material “for any purpose whatsoever.”

Acayan added a detail shortly after indicating that the staff of the show reached out to Paguyo to hand over donations collected out of their own pockets.

“This has led to an internal review of our practices in relation to sourcing third party material,” the network said after the issue gained traction in social media.

GMA, however, said that their audit showed that “a good number” of their programs  “provide financial incentives to those who contribute their footage, while others consistently secure permission from contacts to air their material for free.”

“We recognize the need to standardize our processes and improve,” GMA said.

“Our immediate action is to put a stop to the practice of our teams requesting for use of photos and videos without compensation, particularly requesting interview subjects to shoot video for us for free,” the network added.

You could read the statement below in full.

Some practitioners credited GMA’s acknowledgment of the problem, but said that more should be done, by the company and the industry as a whole.

“Maganda nang panimula yung nag-reply sila as an institution,” Jimmy Domingo, a photojournalist and a lecturer, said in a phone interview.

What is really needed right now is a genuine conversation within the news industry to involve owners and managers on how to handle sourcing material or content.

But Domingo is concerned after word came out that the practice of using content from amateurs will still persist, as compensation will only be given to professionals.

“Dapat blanket yan na pag-respeto sa copyright.Yung practice na kung makalibre, kukunin nang libre, para sa akin mali yun eh,” Domingo said. “Hindi lang legal responsibility yun dapat iniisip kung hindi dapat moral responsibility din.”

The Philippine Star’s vice president for operations Tammy Mendoza acknowledged that there were some missteps in the past but as a matter of policy in using third-party content, there are three steps now being followed:

  1. First, to do level best checking of ownership of material shared with us privately or through our community pages;
  2. Second, to ensure that owner gave us permission to use the material; and
  3. Third, that we give proper attribution to the user.

“We don't ask users to do something for us and not pay,” said Mendoza.

Nonoy Espina, chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said that the issue should be best addressed through an industry-wide dialogue.

“What is really needed right now is a genuine conversation within the news industry to involve owners and managers on how to handle sourcing material or content,” Espina said.

Espina said news organizations have to properly reckon on how to professionally interact with the “phenomenon of citizen journalism.”

Espina further said that the issue is also being experienced in the provinces, where writers and stringers are paid a pittance for their work, or sometimes even forced to double up by soliciting advertising commission.

“The problem really is systemic as it’s happening everywhere so we need a top-to-bottom dialogue. We should strengthen our ranks and demand that proper compensation and proper work conditions be given to media workers,” Espina said.

The NUJP also came out with a detailed statement shown below calling on all stakeholders to resolve the issue.

Luis V. Teodoro, member of the board of trustees of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, said that issues on adequate and standard compensation could only be truly resolved by a media union.

What the journalism industry profession really needs is a union that will work for uniform working conditions, fixed rates and salaries. These issues will not be resolved unless there is a true industry-wide union.

“What the journalism industry profession really needs is a union that will work for uniform working conditions, fixed rates, and salaries. These issues will not be resolved unless there is a true industry-wide union,” said Teodoro.

Teodoro said the NUJP’s initial goal when it was founded by journalist Tony Nieva in the 1980s was to be such a union, but the situation in the Philippines made fighting for press freedom the more pressing matter.

“I guess it’s hard because at every turn, there are press freedom issues that need to be addressed,” Teodoro said.

“Maybe it could only be done at a better time pag hindi na masyado magulo, when press freedom is assured and there is order. But for now, journalists committed to really professionalizing the profession can start doing the work.”