As Crisis of Corporate Media Mounts, IFJ Calls for New Deal for India’s Journalists

 

Media Release: India                                                                                       

August 23 2013       

  

The International Federation of Journalists

(IFJ) and partners in the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) are

deeply alarmed at the mounting job losses in the Indian media, as an economic

slowdown rapidly turns into all-out recession.

 

SAMSN partners in India report that beginning

August 16, no fewer than 350 employees of the highly diversified media group

Network 18, were handed letters of termination. The layoffs are believed to

affect well over a quarter of the total employee strength of the media group’s

news broadcast subsidiary, TV 18.

 

The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), a unit of

the IFJ-affiliated Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) has described the mass

layoffs as the application of “jungle law” and called on regulatory authorities

to intervene and stop the haemorrhage of jobs.

 

The National Union of Journalists of India

(NUJ-I) another IFJ affiliate, has condemned the layoffs as “arbitrary and

unwarranted”.

 

The purported objective of cutting personnel

costs to deal with a profit crunch, the NUJ-I says, does not stand scrutiny,

since Network 18 has put in place “a huge hierarchy” in the management space,

where a major share of the wages and salaries budget is allocated. Nobody

within this unproductive hierarchy of managers is being retrenched, the NUJ-I

points out.

 

Senior managers within Network 18 have been

unavailable for comment and employees targeted in the recent layoffs are

reluctant to speak out for fear of losing the modest compensation packages they

have been promised.

 

Network 18 through TV 18, owns a number of TV

broadcast channels, including the English-language CNN-IBN, the Hindi-language

IBN 7 and the Marathi-language IBN-Lokmat. It also controls the business

focused channels CNBC-TV 18 in English and CNBC Awaaz in Hindi.

 

Network 18 was promoted in 1996 as a private

limited company with interests in finance. It was taken public and listed on

the Indian stock markets in 2006. Early in 2007, it acquired its current

identity after an issue of shares at INR (Indian Rupees) 312 on face value of INR

5.

 

Following the travails of the global financial

meltdown, the main Network 18 promoter, Raghav Bahl, secured early in 2012, a

personal loan of INR 40 billion from India’s largest corporate enterprise,

Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), for cutting some of his company’s debt and

funding a merger with Eenadu Television (ETV), a major multi-lingual

broadcaster based in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

 

It was widely believed then, that this would be

precursor to an aggressive move by Network 18 into the convergence space, since

RIL, headed by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, shortly afterwards signed a deal with

Reliance Infocomm, headed by his brother Anil Ambani, to carry media content

over the 120,000 kilometre long fibre-optic network controlled by the latter.

 

RIL had a subsidiary called Reliance Jio in

place for implementing its ambitions in telecom, but in June 2013, put plans to

launch “fourth-generation” (or 4G) telecom services on hold. The premium placed

on Network 18 media content diminished rapidly after this decision.

 

The decision to integrate newsrooms of the

various media operations of Network 18 came soon afterwards. And a mass

dismissal of staff followed.

 

The IFJ and SAMSN join partners in India in

sharply condemning these arbitrary decisions by the Network 18 management,

which follow a pattern set in recent times.

 

According to the DUJ, the Outlook group recently

laid off an estimated one hundred and thirty-five employees after closing down

Indian editions of a number of lifestyle magazines it was publishing on

franchise arrangements with international media groups.

 

New Delhi Television (NDTV), India’s first major

privately-owned news broadcaster, which benefited from a number of concessions

in its early years, has announced plans to cut back business coverage with

inevitable consequences in job losses.

 

“We recognize that times are hard for Indian media

enterprises, given the shrinkage of the advertisement support that underwrote

the massive expansion since 2004”, said the IFJ Asia Pacific.

 

“We have to underline though, that very few

among the new entities that appeared on the Indian media scene since 2004

showed any regard for the fundamentals of responsible journalism and were

rather, focused almost obsessively on capturing a competitive share of the

booming advertising market”.

 

“Media expansion in India has been thoroughly

unregulated in this time, with entry requirements being non-existent and basic

norms being disregarded, such as the preservation of diversity and the

prevention of monopolies”.

 

“To make journalists the scapegoats at a time

when these calculations of the corporate media have proven hollow, is to evade

accountability for a sequence of miscued business decisions that put the public

interest last”.

 

“We call for a more humane approach towards the

current crisis which preserves the Indian media as a space where the diversity

of voices in the country is truly represented and corporate profit is not the

sole objective”.

 

 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

 The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific