The blood-letting has been intense at Network 18, one of the largest media houses in the country set up by Raghav Bahl. Close to 350 people have lost their jobs all the way from senior editors, anchors to lower-rung people. Unlike the insensitive Ajai Shukla who lives off taxpayer money in Doordarshan, we are heartbroken at these sackings.
Simply put sackings are tough, and while we do admit that sometimes the people who are let go were not the best or most talented people around, more often than not, sackings ignore talent and cut brutally to meet headcount numbers. In this case, it appears that headcount sackings have happened at IBN7, the Hindi general news channel of the Network 18 family.
The story goes that IBN7 was a massive strain on resources, had several overpaid people dating back to before the time Network 18 bought the channel from their original owners, the Dainik Jagran Group. Apparently when IBN7 was started the status quo was maintained and additional costs were added on, and the channel never made an operational profit. The cut-backs have not claimed the job of Ashutosh, IBN7’s editorial boss, but according to insiders he is expected to resign in a few days.
IBN7 is expected to become a skeletal Hindi facsimile of CNN-IBN; much like NDTV India is for NDTV 24×7 and several Hindi newspapers are of their English siblings. IBN7, which was one of the better news channels around, could not compete with the entertainment doled out by leading Hindi news channels. The recent TRAI directive cutting back advertising minutes will impact smaller channels worse than big ones, and that has seemed to have happened.
The question being asked is, why Rajdeep Sardesai, his wife Sagarika Ghose and senior staff such as Bhupendra Chaubey have not either quit at this interference by accountants or offered to surrender part of their salaries, as has happened in many other media groups as a regular practice wherein senior leaders take voluntary pay-cuts. The fact remains that while the chief executive of the network, Dilip Venkatraman, has quit, the editorial head remains, which is strange because the editorial chiefs have to shoulder part of the blame. Or leave due to shame.
At the same time, CNN-IBN has sacked several junior employees while holding on to the services of Karan Thapar, who is paid a purported Rs 75,000 per episode of his talk show and Rs 1,25,000 per episode of his interview show Devil’s Advocate. Thapar pulls more money per month than any journalist in the network. Yet Thapar, who is believed to be loath to take a pay-cut, cannot be let go due to the way his contract is structured: it is believed to involve a massive pay-out if his show is terminated in the middle of the year.
However, we believe this is just the start of large-scale sackings in the Indian media. Rumours abound of sackings at another major media group whose offices are close to those of Network18 in Noida.
This is really quite sad, as people lose jobs. Young boys and girls supporting their families, fathers and mothers supporting their children, paying school fees, house and car loans, are now jobless. Ajai Shukla, your insensitivity is mind-boggling. How can job losses ever be good – for those who lose their jobs and those who are left behind in hollowed out offices?