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Solon wants power of media harnessed for common good

CAMARINES Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte on Saturday proposed that the broadcast media and online news sites allocate a portion of their airtime to disseminate information on enacted laws and government services, as well as announce vital information in the event of emergencies along with other matters of public interest.

Villafuerte said his proposal will ensure that the power of the media would be “harnessed for the common good instead of being abused for political messaging and propaganda.”

“A disciplined society requires information. The State as guardian of the rights of the people should ensure that they are well-informed of their rights and well-aware of matters regarding their public safety, civic duties and responsibilities,” he said in filing House Bill (HB) No. 7819 or the proposed “Public Service Announcement Act.”

Under Villafuerte’s bill, all online news sites and broadcast media are required to provide public service time of at least three minutes per day to enable the government to educate and increase public awareness on newly enacted laws and their implementing rules and regulations (IRR), and the services offered by government agencies.

“Other matters which may require the exercise of their legal rights or those that may increase their awareness on matters of public concern may also be a valid subject of advertisement to be aired in the said broadcast media. Provided, That, such public service time shall not be in lieu of the publication requirement as provided in the existing and newly enacted laws,” the bill stated.

Any TV or radio station facility that fails to provide the required public service time of at least three minutes per day may have its license to operate suspended, revoked or not renewed, HB 7819 likewise states.

“The power of media to transmit government policy and law, as well as urgent and important public information, needs to be fully utilized for public information and education,” Villafuerte noted.

In cases of emergency or exigency, as determined by the national government or local government unit (LGU), additional airtime shall be given for public service announcements, which shall be determined upon consultation with the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

HB 7810 designates the PIA as the lead agency in the implementation of the measure, and is tasked to coordinate with the other branches of the government and the various state agencies for its production of public service commercials designed to promote and inform the public on the relevant issues and concerns.

“This measure seeks to contribute to the realization of the mandate in Article II Section 24 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that “the State recognizes the vital role of communication and information in nation-building,’” Villafuerte said.

Makati City Pabakuna

Under the bill, the PIA, in coordination with the KBP, is also tasked to promulgate the measure’s IRR.

Villafuerte has filed a separate bill (HB 7820) providing workers in the media industry with security of tenure, hazard and overtime pay and other benefits enjoyed by regular employees.

HB 7820 or the proposed Media Workers’ Welfare Act aims to guarantee the rights of media workers to self-organization, and to create a safe, protected atmosphere conducive to their “productive, free, and fruitful” work, Villafuerte said.

“Media workers risk their own lives being exposed to the perils and hazards outdoor just so we can receive our needed information. It is unfortunate that the very same people behind it are usually the ones whose labor rights are ignored such as those pertaining to security of tenure, hazard pay, night shift differential pay and overtime pay, among others,” Villafuerte said.

Under HB 7820, media workers in entry-level positions shall receive the minimum monthly compensation determined by the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) or the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs), depending on which applies in his or her case.

Villafuerte has also proposed the grant of hazard pay of at least P500 per day to media workers assigned to dangerous areas, such as strife-torn or embattled zones, distressed or isolated stations, disease-infested areas or in areas declared under state of calamity or emergency.

Employers are also mandated under the bill to provide media workers with basic safety gear and equipment when they are assigned to dangerous areas.

The bill also grants overtime and night-differential pay to media workers as well as mandatory additional insurance benefits.

These insurance benefits include: 1) death benefit of P200,000 for each media worker who shall perish in the line of duty; 2) disability benefit of P200,000 for each media worker who shall suffer total or partial disability whether permanent or temporary, arising from any injury sustained in the line of duty; and 3) reimbursement of actual medical expenses up to but not to exceed P100,000 for each media worker who shall be hospitalized or who shall require medical attendance for injuries sustained while in the line of duty.