Viacom/MTV Issues Intense Employee Gag Order, Basically Takes Ownership of Blogs, Thoughts
"Viacom is a special company," opens a letter to all of the corporation's directors and employees, received Friday evening and obtained by Runnin' Scared, detailing a new "Business Practices Statement." Special, secretive and very strict, apparently.
Meant to ensure that anyone on the payroll for Viacom, the parent company of MTV, BET and Paramount Pictures, "upholds the highest standards of ethical behavior," the accompanying PDF sent out to employees is 48 pages of internal corporate terrorism, laying out detailed rules that govern each and every part of an employee's life, should it have any tangential connection whatsoever to Viacom business. That includes personal blogs, outside jobs (even unpaid or charity work) and especially talking to the press. That, by and large, will not be tolerated.
The rules list is expertly designed, a splash of bright blues and greens with wild and crazy fonts, seemingly to soften the draconian vibe of the actual words. "When in doubt, ask before you act," the document demands (emphasis theirs).
Viacom wants to be perfectly clear that they are not playing around when it comes to conflicts of interest and corporate privacy:
You are discouraged from publicly discussing work-related matters, whether constituting confidential information or not, outside of appropriate work channels, including online, in chat rooms, on websites or in "blogs."
Make no mistake, they own their employees, at work and beyond. But that's nothing compared to their media policy:
But not only should employees not talk, or even think about talking, they should also snitch as soon as possible. "Rather than making any substantive response to a journalist's inquiry, you must immediately report the contact to your Company's Corporate Communications Department," the rules read. And do it happily:
It's also important to realize that the majority of recipients of this new list of policies are not even full-time, salaried and supported employees of Viacom. They're what's known in the business as "permalancers," as in "permanent freelancers." They do most of the work with fewer of the benefits. Many rely on other projects to subsist, but in doing so, they'd better walk on eggshells, lest they piss off the Viacom Gods.
Granted, working for any of the world's leading corporate entities requires some level of discreteness, enforced through corporate control over endless staffs of minions. (You can bet Goldman Sachs is implanting computer chips in their trolls by now.) But for a media company to show such forceful disdain for anything media-related or skewing toward individual expression isn't only telling, it's mildly terrifying, and at the very least, disturbing.
Have any more info about Viacom's big business underbelly and new policies? Let us know.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.