The Next TV Workers’ Union yesterday asked the National Communications Commission (NCC) to immediately investigate whether ERA Communications has fulfilled its promises made when it acquired Next TV last year, adding that ERA Communications should be asked to address its failure to fulfill its promises or face having its licenses revoked.
ERA Communications secured permission from the NCC to buy Next TV after it promised that its news ethics committee would function properly and Next TV would have sufficient workers to maintain normal operations.
ERA Communications said ERA News and Next TV News would have different styles, adding that the news departments of each would be run separately and independently.
ERA Communications also promised it would stipulate guidelines governing news reports focused on the the media group itself.
Union president Tim Cheng (鄭一平) said ERA Communications has yet to recruit enough employees for Next TV, meaning reporters have to provide material for both channels.
News gathered by satellite trucks was simultaneously fed to the two channels, and ERA Communications had not enforced its guidelines regarding news about the group, Cheng said.
These practices are the opposite of what the group promised the commission, Cheng said.
Last month, the union threatened strike action over canceled employee benefits.
Cheng declined to give more details on the strike.
“Given the little resources we have, we can only do this [go on strike] once and cannot afford to blow it,” he said.
“You’ll know when we go on strike,” he added.
The union has 204 members, with 64 of them working in engineering, Cheng said, adding that ERA Communications had tried to interfere with the union’s operations by putting the engineering workers on ERA Communications’ roster, reducing union membership to 140.
Cheng said he was not given any assignment to cover on Aug.15, the day after the union approved the strike action, adding that he restarted work as a reporter on Aug. 20.
The union said the Taipei City Labor Inspection Office found that ERA Communications violated the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) by asking employees to work overtime without additional payment and requesting pregnant women to work night shifts.
The notice of violation was not publicly displayed in the workplace as labor law requirements state, it added.
ERA Communications said in a statement that though it respects the union’s right to protest, it would take legal actions to defend itself against any false allegations.
The media group said it has thoroughly fulfilled its promises on the news ethics committee, and separate and independent news departments, as well as the guidelines on how they handle reports involving the group itself.
It said it is still working on recruiting enough employees for Next TV and making sure that ERA TV and Next TV have different styles.
Academia Sinica associate research fellow Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) was in a hearing on ERA Communications’ acquisition of Next TV last year.
ERA Communications has apparently betrayed the good faith of the Next TV employees, Huang said.
“ERA succeeded in buying Next TV because Next TV’s workers were willing to trust the new employer,” Huang said.
“If the NCC does nothing in this situation, the conditions it set for the ERA Communications-Next TV deal will be meaningless,” he said.
“Nobody will take the NCC seriously when it sets provisions for future mergers,” Huang added.
National Taiwan University professor Flora Chang (張錦華) said the situation the reporters are facing affects the nation’s press freedom.
ERA Communications has apparently “bounced its checks,” and the NCC cannot shun its responsibility, Chang said.
NCC Chairperson Howard Shyr (石世豪) said the commission would investigate the situation.
“Some of the employees’ appeals are about working conditions and labor rights, which are regulated by labor laws,” Shyr said.
“We will look at what [ERA Communications] promised last year and what we found in our inspection of the channel before we make a decision,” he added.
Meanwhile, ERA Communications said it would stop representing Formosa TV News and SET TV News by December this year and December 2016 respectively due to the concern that the group has control over too many news channels in Taiwan.
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