TVB and am730 show appreciation of their staffs

Chong Hiu Yeung - General Secretary, HKJA

[Mar 2012 - The Journalist] The government is to raise the threshold for salaries tax.  Meaning more journalists will be paying pittance or none at all.

That's how gloomy the situation is.

Most wage-earners will welcome any tax relief.  But in the case of media people it shows how poorly paid they are.  More and more of them are joining the ranks of those who earn enough to keep them just above the subsistence level and, therefore, do not have to pay taxes. Some will, at most, pay a couple of hundred dollars in taxes.
This follows a decade of wage-freeze in the media industry.  In outlets where increments have been shelled out, increases have lagged behind  inflation.
In recent times only two outlets have shown any appreciation of their staffs: am730 and TVB under new ownership. 
Generally employers have been very quick to cut salaries, especially starting wages, when a downturn hits the economy.  But economic rebound usually brings no response insofar as wages are concerned.
In the media industry most workers no longer have any expectation of annual salary reviews, let alone annual bonus payments.
Unless they get promoted or quit the industry altogether, most journalists are finding it more and more difficult to improve their lives.
According to data provided by reporters from 22 outlets, The Journalist  found that only nine increased wages, 16 gave year-end bonuses or double pay. (See table).
The inflation rate for 2011 was above 5%, but only TVB and am730 increased salaries by more than 5%. All the rest were between 1.5% and 5%.
am730 bonus was the highest. In addition to the 13th month double pay, frontline reporters and senior management got bonus equal to three extra months and five extra months of salary respectively. The chief editor Alan Lo said, am730 had a clear formula to calculate the bonus. Employees could share one third of total profit, so they were relatively stable and their staff turnover rate was quite low because most reporters were experienced.
The new owner of TVB is more generous than the previous one, so increments and bonus are the highest in recent years.
In other outlets increments were below inflation rate. In real terms this meant salary cuts. The worst outlet is ATV where, according to one reporter, increments and bonuses are referred to in historical terms. Monthly salaries are now, at times, even not paid punctually.
"Long time ago, rice cakes and spring banquets were offered during Lunar New Year. Some senior management staffs of ATV would go round editorial desks, say kung hei fat choy and offer laisee to journalists. But there's nothing now… the turnover rate of reporters is extremely high. When green reporters become experienced, they join other electronic media. We now train reporters for others."
Also in “poverty-stricken” ranks is now TV which is owned by Richard Li Tzar-kai, with salaries of journalists was frequently frozen. One journalist said: “As ex-executive vice president Loh Chan says...the broadcast rights of English Premier League is always the excuse for freezing salaries, either because of the huge extra expenditures involved in bidding for the rights or losing customers after losing the bid. The Company can always find reason to freeze salaries, the excuse for last year was the IPO of PCCW's telecom trust.'
The journalist added: “In now TV, the salary is adjusted every two years If your salary was adjusted last year, you will not have increment this's also a matter luck.”
For Cable TV and Hong Kong Broadband, salary increments and bonuses are not for everybody. Some 5% of Hong Kong Broadband journalists got no bonus. The rest were given bonus of between 0.75 percent to 400 percent of monthly salary.
In cable TV, journalists got approximately one month's salary in bonus. However, not every reporter got a raise. It depended on the individual's situation. Journalists whose salaries were frozen were punished by the high inflation rate.
As a senior reporter said, “We don't need to sit in office. Our job is to go to different places to get news. I won't get used to being a PR officer or sit in office even though you pay me a huge amount of money. It is easy to please reporters actually, given that we can report big news and good news, get more encouragement from senior management, at least we enjoy our job and work happily although our salary is low.”
Apple Daily, Hong Kong Economic Times, Ming Pao, Sing Tao Daily, Commercial Radio, Wen Wei Po, Tai Kung Pao and Hong Kong Commercial Daily will announce salary adjustments in or after April.
The Journalist hopes these media will treasure journalists' contribution and hard work, adjust their salary reasonably so that good journalists can be retained.