A few months ago, the sacking of comedian Conan O’ Brien brought about a deluge of protests from the watching public. It was so strong that all Conan had to do was regularly send tweets to inflame the issue to drastic levels. The network’s executives had no clue as to how to deal with the outpour of support, no clue as to how to deal with the fact that they were now dubbed uncaring Goliaths fighting a red-headed David. Clearly, they didn’t anticipate or understand social media in drafting their contract with Team Coco. There was a loophole and it was exploited.
Considering that we live in an age where Facebook commands 500 million people, where Twitter is becoming it’s very own nation-state alongside top brass figures such as Google and Wikipedia, the regulation of online communication is now becoming a constant in contracts with high-profile individuals. What information are they allowed to share with their adoring public? If they get terminated from multi-million dollar projects, are they allowed to voice their anxieties, their frustration to the detriment of their employers?
Take the ill-fated example of our own Willie Revillame - a don of the masses and an erstwhile king of a noontime show that seems to have molded charity and gyrating dancers into a profitable enterprise. If the vast majority of our population were online, if Willie had decided to fight the powers that be with online muscle, would ABS-CBN still have its seeming bargaining advantage? Would he have elicited the same kind of support that Conan received half the world away? I think he might have. The question however is, if contract had said ‘Willie, you are not allowed to whine online if you get sacked,’ would this be binding? Can one’s freedom of expression be limited just because more money is involved? I can almost hear Conan in the background saying, ‘even us rich people have rights, you know.’ And as strange as it might sound, he's probably right.