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
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
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
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
“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
For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries
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