Excluded from CMCO, advertising film industry says daily wage workers starving

Syed Jaymal Zahiid
A giant LED advertising board displaying a message on the movement control order is pictured in Kuala Lumpur April 16, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — The advertising film industry is appealing for the government to lift Covid-19 curbs immediately, citing the need to put money into the pockets of most of its daily-paid workers now rendered impoverished by the movement control order (MCO).

“They are literally starving,” Khoo Kay Lye, current president of the Malaysian Association of Advertising Film Industry (PPIM), told Malay Mail in a phone interview.

“They cannot even put food on the table, literally. Most of the workers in this industry are freelancers, they get paid daily,” he added.

“So because of the MCO, everything was stopped and nobody got paid.”

For an industry whose members get paid only upon the completion of an advertisement, the government’s decision to include entertainment as one of the few sectors still under lockdown has been excruciating for the majority of its contract labourers.

The extension means production houses, a small, close-knit industry, cannot finish most of the backlogged commissions assigned before the pandemic forced public health authorities to order businesses to shut down.

For the hundreds of thousands working as shooting crew who are paid daily on set, the shutdown has left most without an income throughout the six-week-long MCO.

And as the government continues to enforce a no-operation order on the entertainment sector even as most non-essential services have been allowed to restart under the conditional MCO (CMCO), Khoo said the sectors’ workers are in dire straits.

“The result is simple — no job, no food,” he said.

“I understand that this plight is not exclusive to the people in my industry, but my empathy must first be for those in my industry.

“We are hungry. We are desperate for help.”

And Khoo said the appeal is not a selfish one.

The advertising film industry makes significant contributions to the Malaysian economy, with the advertising and marketing industry ecosystem pouring an estimated RM15 billion into the country’s economy last year alone.

Khoo said PPIM has since appealed to the relevant authorities, like the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, and had formulated a four-paged health standard operating procedure (SOP) in the hopes that the government would consider allowing the industry to restart.

Among the measures suggested were health screenings for crew members, social distancing on set and remote shooting by utilising advanced systems like QTake, an advanced software application designed and developed for video assist professionals.

Khoo said the QTake system allows producers to limit the number of staff on set, manage and shoot direction by agency or client teams remotely.

PPIM’s initiative has received widespread support from related industry players also hit by the shutdown.

They include the Malaysian Advertisers Association (MAA), the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents of Malaysia (4As), Post Production Animation & Creative Content (Postam), and the Malaysian Society of Cinematographers (MySC).

“This (SOP) is a commitment that my industry is aligned with the government’s health and safety regulations in its effort to ensure that it is safe to return to work,” Khoo said.



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