Archive for June, 2011

All in a month’s work for a greenhorn journalist

22 June 2011

PRABHU MALLIKARJUNAN entered the profession a month ago. In just his first month at work at a business newspaper in Hyderabad, he has calculated that he has received Rs 6,560 worth of gifts and freebies.

Four corporate buffet lunches (@ Rs 1,100 + taxes 12.5%) Rs 4,950; leather wallet Rs 600; 2 GB pendrive Rs 350; note pads Rs 100; Parker pen Rs 100; other stationery Rs 100; T shirt Rs 300; coffee mug Rs 60. Total Rs 6,560.

“Initially I thought it was OK to receive stationery (notepad, pen and pencil). But as days passed by, I started getting calendars, coffee mugs and pens. I thought this might be the ‘corporate culture’. Then came 2 GB pendrives, T-shirts and leather wallets…. On average, a business journalist can get over Rs 78,000 as uninformed incentive.”

Read the full article: The (dis)grace of being a business journalist

Also read: The journalist who offered a Rs 2 crore bribe

Cash transfer system is already here for journalists

Bangalore journalists named in site allotment scam

Malayalee reporters of Delhi, don’t be so selfish

SEBI chief: Business journalism or business of journalism?

Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Why doesn’t INS oppose ‘no-poaching’ pacts?

21 June 2011

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has branded the recommendations of the Majithia wage board as an attempt to muzzle the freedom of the press. But why does its heart beat for media freedom when competing newspapers enter no-poaching agreements which curtails the freedom of journalists?

That is the question that Yogesh Pawar asks. Pawar, a former Indian Express reporter who did a stint with NDTV before joining DNA recently, has been both a wage board employee and a contract comployee. He says both systems have their pluses and minuses.

But he uses tacit no-poaching agreement between papers (essentially to keep wages down) to drive home INS’ hypocrisy in ranting against the Majithia wage board in the name of media freedom.

Pawar writes:

“When there were only two broadsheets in town (The Times of India and The Indian Express in Bombay), they had a deal disallowing movement between themselves.

“What this did to morale and salaries can only be guessed as the drive to do well and get noticed simply stopped mattering. While some moved to television briefly as a bridge arrangement before coming back to their jobs of choice, others moved to Delhi where there were more options. The ones who couldn’t simply languished.

“Apart from your annual appraisals from within, when offers are made from other firms, it means the other organisation recognises your value. When media organisations changed to contract regimes, it was said that media-persons confident of their work need not be afraid.

“Doesn’t this work the other way round too with anti-poaching deals?”

Read the full article: What is sauce for the goose

Also read: Should papers implement Majithia wage board?

Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

External reading: Why not wage board for all journos and non-journos in media?

Should papers implement Majithia wage board?

20 June 2011

Notwithstanding the exponential growth of the print media post-liberalisation, it is clear that the voice of journalists in the publications they bring out is subservient to that of the proprietor, promoter and publisher on most issues and certainly so on the Majithia wage board for journalists and “other newspaper employees”.

Although owners and managers have unabashedly used the columns of their newspapers to rile against higher wages and build “public opinion” against the Majithia wage board through reports, opinion pieces and advertisements, a similar facility has been unavailable for journalists to air their views in the same publications.

It is as if journalists and “other newspaper employees”, whether on contract or otherwise, are in sync with their organisations in opposing the wage board’s recommendations. Which is, of course, far from the truth. Which is, of course, why a nationwide strike has been slated for June 28  to draw attention to journalists’ demands.

So, what do you think?

Is there a case for higher wages for journalists and “other newspaper employees”? Should the Majithia wage board be implemented or should wage boards be abolished? Are newspapers, which are rolling in profits, exploiting journalists with low wages and longer working hours? Or should journalists wisen up to the realities of the modern work place?

Is there truth in the charge that industry organisations like the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) are being used by big newspaper groups to prevent if not stall the new wages? Or is the contention of newspaper owners that they will wilt and crumble under the pressure of a higher wage bill justified?

Note: This sans serif poll is protected from repeat voting. Only one vote per computer, per IP address.

Also read: Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

Prabha Dutt fellowship for women print journos

20 June 2011

PRESS RELEASE: The Sanskriti Foundation in collaboration with the Prabha Dutt memorial foundation is inviting applications for the annual Prabha Dutt fellowship in journalism, in honour of the pioneering Hindustan Times journalist.

The aim of the fellowship is to encourage mid-career, women print journalists between 25 and 40 years of age, to investigate and research on any topic of contemporary relevance without having to work under the pressures of short deadlines.

The 10-month fellowship carries a grant of Rs one lakh including travel expenses. The work can be executed in Hindi, English or any regional language. Fellows will be required to publish a stipulated number of articles in established publications. They may also work on a book or monograph for subsequent publication within the given time frame.

Interested applicants should e-mail their CV and a synopsis of 250-300 words of their project proposal along with the names of two referees to fellowships@sanskritifoundation.org (mention ‘Sanskriti-Prabha Dutt Fellowship’ in the subject line). E-mailed applications should be followed by a hard copy.

The last date for receipt of application is 31 August 2011.

Further information can be had from:

Sanskriti Pratishthan
C-11 Qutab Institutional Area, New Delhi – 110016
Telephone: (011) 2696 3226, 2652 7077
Fax: (011) 2685 3383

E-mail: fellowships@sanskritifoundation.org
Website: http://www.sanskritifoundation.org

Why the wage board is good for journalists

19 June 2011

The recommendations of the Majithia wage board for journalists and other newspaper employees have clearly split newspaper owners and newspaper workers.

The big dads of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) have rejected the recommendations, taken out advertisements, filed cases and published articles to build “public opinion”. But two small newspaper owners, both members of INS, have told sans serif that they feel they are being used in the current joust.

The big players who rarely empathise with their woes,  and often trample all over them, they say, are firing from their shoulders only because they stand to lose the most.

Meanwhile, while journalists on “contract” maintain a studied silence, workers of newspapers and news agencies have accused INS of spreading falsehoods and exerting pressure on the government. They have now served notice of a nationwide strike on June 28 over the delay in the implementation of the wage board recommendations.

Lost in all the melee is the voice of the ordinary newspaper employee not on contract.

Here, in response to a media baron’s contention that the Majithia wage board recommendations are bad for journalism, an anonymous sub-editor, formerly with The Times of India, makes an impassioned argument for higher wages as recommended by the wage board for one  simple reason.

***

You can argue at length against the Majithia wage board but the fact remains that print media journalists are being paid less than lower division clerks, school teachers, bank employees, marketing and advertising executives in media firms, etc let alone engineers, doctors or MBAs.

Being a senior sub-editor in a news organisation that implements the wage boad, I am earning Rs 18,000 per month. My wife with a simple B.Ed. degree earns as much working fewer hours than I do.

A friend of mine is a senior sports correspondent with a reputed news agency. He has been hired on contract basis at a package of Rs 40,000 (cost to company) although he gets only Rs 30,000 in hand.

He has to pay a rent of Rs 8,000 in Delhi apart from spending money on his travel. He works from 11 am to 10 pm at office and sometimes also after he returns home.

Is he not entitled to a better life?

***

The chief benefit of the wage board is that employees— though getting paid less than contract employees—are saved from being exploited like machines for 18 hours a day and being paid less than what other professionals with similar or lesser qualifications do for working fewer hours.

I began my career with the Times of India after completing post-graduate diploma in journalism. I was paid less than what the receptionist (who was a graduate) looking mainly after matrimonial section and working fixed hours was receiving.

I met a fresher graduate recently who is working as sales executive with the telecom company, Idea. He delivers post-paid SIM cards at home. I was astonished to learn that he is earning more than I am and had a more or less fixed working time.

Is it a crime to choose journalism as profession where one is ready to devote one’s heart and soul for the sake of news, where one has to beg for quotes and bytes, where the pressure is no less than in any MNC and the only incentive is to share the truth?

Does that mean one is not entitled to good life?

No wonder many of my friends have quit the profession. No wonder that journalism is not attracting the kind of brains it used to once upon a time.

Majithia wage board—whether you all succeed in getting it scuttled or not—is the need of the hour.

Newspaper barons are rolling in riches. Newspaper marketing and advertisement executives are being paid higher for the product that will not be sold if does not contain the main item: news.

Also read: 9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

External reading: Muzzling the media

Future of the Press at stake?

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

18 June 2011

The recommendations of the Majithia wage board for working journalists and “other newspaper employees” has set the proverbial cat among the paper tigers. The industry body, Indian Newspaper Society (INS), has come out all guns blazing. It has called the wage board “an arbitary and undemocratic institution”, whose recommendations are designed to stifle media freedom.

The chairman of one prominent newspaper group, with a journalistic strength of 400 out of a workforce of 1,200, has told sans serif his company will be in loss “from day one” if he implements the proposed wage hike rumoured to be in the 80-100% range.

“There is no way I’ll will go ahead, even if it means fighting to the very end,” says the media baron.

The Times of India, which was slightly more sympathetic of previous wage boards because of the pressure of unions, has mounted a full-throated campaign against the Majithia wage board since it appears even “contract employees” (which is what most ToI journalists are) will come under the nomenclature of “other newspaper employees”.

But ToI seems to be a lone-ranger in this fight. Few of the other 1,017 members of INS have shown the same alacrity on their pages; even fewer have run INS chairman Kundan R. Vyas‘ article enunciating the opposition or the INS ad.

Here, in response to Sharanya Kanvilkar‘s article slamming proprietors, promoters and publishers for waking up only when it suits them, a newspaper baron (whose group has a “board-plus” wage policy) lists nine reasons why the Majithia wage board recommendations are injurious to the health of newspapers and indeed to journalists silently exulting over the plight of their masters:

***

1) It is asked every time, it must be asked again. And again: why do we have a wage board only for newspapers? The first board was constituted in 1955 when government-owned All India Radio (AIR) was the only mass medium, and Nehruvian India justly feared that private newspaper barons could exploit journalists. But in 21st century post-reforms India?

If it is right that wages must be protected in the private sector, why should the government only start and stop at newspapers? What about all the other ‘poor souls’ in other media sectors, like TV or the internet?

Or the IT or automotive industries?

2) The quantum of hike in wages recommended by the Majithia board conveys the wrong impression that journalists and other newspaper employees are poorly paid at present. This is far from the truth.

Only one of every 10 journalists I meet complains of low wages and even she is not looking for a 80-100% jump.

The Times of India, most of whose journalists are currently on contract with a higher CTC than wage board journalists, pays the best wages in the country. Yet the fact that it is at the forefront of the campaign against the Majithia wage board recommendations shows that it is not the fear of losing money that is motivating the Old Lady of Boribunder.

This is about media freedom.

3) Every source of income and outgo in the newspaper industry is dictated by market forces. Newsprint costs, cover price, distributor and hawker commission, advertisement rates, etc, are all decided by market forces over which we have little or no control.

Yet, on the issue of wages and wages alone, the government wants to step in and play minder. Why? It is entirely logical that the government wants to be seen as a friend of journalists. But it is entirely illogical that independent journalists should want to see the government as a friend.

It is, of course, entirely nonsensical if you consider the fact that many industries cut salaries in bad times like 2008-09, and restore it when the times are better, but newspapers who are exposed to the same financial and commercial pressures, somehow cannot.

Why?

4) The wage board is within its rights to recommend a minimum starting salary for journalists, but everything that happens after a journalist joins a newspaper should be the prerogative of the management and editorial leadership.

On the other hand, the Majithia board, by recommending salary scales with a built-in annual hike and time-bound promotions, seeks to reward complacency, mediocrity and under-performance while giving efficiency, talent and meritocracy the back seat.

Do journalists want that situation?

5) The wage board has no business to fiddle with things that is none of its business. For example: scanner operators, who perform a mechanical function no different from peons taking photocopies, were classified as journalists by the previous wage board. Why?

The Majithia board also exceeds its brief and recommends a retirement age of 65 for journalists, when the government retires its staff at between 58 and 62 years.

Add to this the fact that the working journalists Act stipulates that journalists are expected to work for just six hours a day. Do professionals in any other industry enjoy this grand privilege while being guaranteed a 80-100% wage hike, annual increments, time-bound promotions and an enhanced retirement age, sans accountability?

6) Even the Union labour minister will admit that three out of four newspapers in the country have not implemented many earlier wage board recommendations, and it is in such newspapers that the majority of poorly-paid journalists work.

The chances of such recalcitrant newspapers implementing the draconian recommendations of the Majithia board are remote, if not impossible. So after so many wage boards, what is the government’s trackrecord in reaching fair wages to journalists, the majority of whom slave away in organisations which do not implement wage board recommendations?

7) Given that historical record, the Majithia board looks set to punish groups that have successfully implemented previous wage board recommendations for decades. This gives an unfair advantage to new entrants and start-ups which blithely refuse to do so.

By working with the workers’ union, my newspaper has had a “board-plus” wage policy, in which we pay what the board recommends plus something extra that we can afford. This has worked for both sides very well. Does it make sense to impose the new wage board on groups like ours, while turning a blind eye on groups which have consistently refused to implement previous wage boards?

By keeping their wage bill unnaturally low, such groups find it easy to chip into older players with greater ethical concern for the wellbeing of journalists.

8) Over the years, the government has disbanded wage boards in all other industries, but it has not and still does not have the courage to disband the wage board for journalists.

This shows clearly that though the government agrees that wage boards have lost their relevance and usefulness in the modern economy, they are sucking up to journalists by keeping their wage board alive.

Or are they simply scared of them?

9) Those arguing for a wage board for journalists contend that that TV journalists are better paid. If that is true, as it perhaps is, then it is also true that this has happened without a wage board.

Can we then logically conclude that print journalists and others will be better paid without a wage board?

And one last point: by forcing newspapers into implementing the wage board recommendations, is the government willy-nilly pushing us to use ‘paid news’ as a source of additional revenue to meet the demands of the new wage bill?

Or, worse, by worming their way into the hearts of journalists with these unrealistic proposals, is the government buying good coverage at the expense of proprietors, promoters and publishers?

Also read: Media barons wake up together, sing same song

INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

15 June 2011

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: The proprietors, promoters and publishers of India’s newspapers and magazines haven’t had a word to say on some of the biggest issues confronting Indian media—and directly impacting the trust and faith of the reader—in recent years.

Paid news, in which advertisements are couched as news? Silence.

Private treaties, in which vested interest is touted as ads? Silence.

Medianet, in which anybody can buy his or her way into the paper? Silence.

Cross-media ownership, which results in monopolies shutting out choice? Silence.

Dubious ownership, in which crooks, criminals and the corrupt become media barons—and underwrite major industry conventions? Silence.

Predatory pricing, which strangles small newspapers? Silence.

Dumping of copies to pump up circulation numbers? Silence.

Complicity of journalists with lobbyists? Silence.

The killing of journalists in the line of duty? Silence.

But the big guns of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS)—which represents 1.017 small, medium and large members—have suddenly sprung into life as one in slamming the recommendations of the G.R. Majithia wage board with the undisguised intent of blocking its implementation.

In just the first 15 days of this month, The Times of India has published four articles on the subject:

# June 2: The paper’s CEO Ravindra Dhariwal weighs in on the subject in an edit-page piece titled “Muzzling the Media

# June 4: “Wage board proposal will force many newspapers to shut down: INS

# June 6: “Wage boards challenged in Supreme Court” on the Ananda Bazaar Patrika group filing a petition in the Supreme Court

# June 9: INS president Kundan R. Vyas authors another editor-page piece titled “Future of Press at stake?

And now, ToI and The Economic Times have published an INS advertisement on its pages, essentially encapsulating the key points wage board opponents have been making for years.

For good measure, Ashish Bagga, the CEO of the India Today group and a prominent functionary on INS, has written an opinion piece titled “How to kill the print media” in the latest issue of the magazine, and Hindustan Times has a report titled, “Wage board outdated: experts“.

The theme of all the pieces is the same: 1) The newspaper industry is the only industry in the country to have a statutory wage board; even other sectors of the media, like TV, radio, internet don’t. 2) The wage hike recommended takes salaries of non-journalistic staff way beyond what the government itself pays its staff. 3) The wage board recommendations could end becoming a convenient tool for the government to turn the screws on inconvenient newspapers and agencies.

All fair points, no doubt, when viewed purely through the prism of the bottomline. But it is not so much the loyalty of journalists that INS is bothered about in opposing the wage board recommendations (most in the big newspapers are now on contract) but the disloyalty of non-journalists in not falling in line.

Easy hire-and-fire policies may yet be a legitimate objective to follow for proprietors, promoters and publishers to achieve efficiency, but where is the INS when other questions of importance confront journalists and journalism, many of which affect the small players in whose name they are fighting the battle against the Majithia board?

Also read: INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

External reading: Wageboard for journalists

Print or TV, ‘power’ is the new media magnet

14 June 2011

There is a new money plant flowering at the feet of media men and media houses, and it’s called a power plant.

***

Exhibit A: Mail Today, Friday, June 10:

Trivandrum: The chief operating officer of a Malayalam cable TV channel provider, who tried to bribe a senior IAS officer, is cooling his heels behind bars.

Sankara Narayanan (42), of Asianet satellite communications, made an abortive attempt to offer cash to the State power secretary Subbayya on Wednesday night to renew the firm’s permit to use the Kerala state electricity board’s lamp post for the television cables.

Narayanan dropped in at Subbayya’s residence and presented him with sweets, a costly mobile phone and Rs 1 lakh in cash. Realising Narayanan’s intentions, Subbayya locked the front door and called the police.

Exhibit B: Bangalore Mirror, Friday, June 3:

Bangalore: In a dramatic operation, Karnataka power minister Shobha Karandlaje has had two ‘power brokers’ caught by Cubbon Park police while trying to take a Rs 1.7 crore bribe in her name.

The duo had approached the company which was trying to get their Rs 17 crore in dues cleared by the ministry headed by Shobha, with an offer to clear the dues for a 10 per cent cut.

After the firm agreed to the deal, duo made the request to the minister through some journalists, the police said. Investigations have also revealed the role of three journalists, one from a national English daily and two others from a Kannada television channel, who had made the request to Shobha.

Exhibit C: Power plans of DB Corp, Dainik Bhaskar and DNA

3 deaths, 14 attacks on journos in last six months

14 June 2011

GEETA SESHU writes from Bombay: The killing of Mid-Day (special investigations) editor J.Dey on Saturday, 11 June 2011, was the third death of a journalist in India over the last six months. In all three instances, investigations are on but no arrests have been made; much less is there any headway as to the killers or their motives.

The impunity with which these attacks have taken place only shows that, in India, freedom of speech and expression cannot be taken for granted. “The Free Speech Tracker” set up last year by the Free Speech Hub to monitor all instances of violations of freedom of speech and expression reveals that attacks on journalists and intimidation of editors and writers continued unabated.

# On 20 December 2010, Sushil Pathak, a journalist with Dainik Bhaskar in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, was shot dead while returning home after a late night shift. The general secretary of the Bilaspur Press Club, Pathak is surived by his wife and two children. An investigation began into his death but till February this year, no headway was made into it.

Following sustain protests from journalists’ organisations as well as opposition parties in Chhattisgarh, the state’s Chief Minister Raman Singh ordered that the investigation be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

# On 23 January 2011, Umesh Rajput, a reporter with Nai Duniya was shot dead by two masked assailants on a motorcycle. A note, stating “Khabar chaapna band nahi karoge toh mare jaoge” (If you don’t stop publishing news, you will be killed), was found near the crime scene.

Apart from these deaths, there have been 14 instances of attacks on journalist in this year alone.

# On January 3, Sudhir Dhawale, dalit activist and editor of Vidrohi, a Marathi magazine, was arrested and charged with sedition and links with Maoists.

# In January, Somanath Sahu, reporter of Dharitri, was prevented from attending a press conference at the office of the deputy commissioner of police, Shaheed nagar, Bhubaneshwar, and threatened with dire consequences for writing reports that went against the police.

# Rajat Ranjan Das, a reporter of Sambad daily, sustained fractures and head injuries by alleged supporters of Saikh Babu, a ruling Biju Janata Dal leader from Pipili, Orissa in February.

# In the same month MBC TV reporter Kiran Kanungo and cameraperson Prasant Jena were roughed up by a group of BJD workers in Banki. And, in a separate incident the same day, OTV reporter N.M. Baisakh and his cameraman Anup Ray were beaten up by anti-social elements in Paradeep when they were covering a protest dharna outside the IOCL main gate by local people demanding jobs and compensation.

# In February, an NDTV team of journalists and camera crew were harassed and illegally detained allegedly by staff belonging to the Adani group when the were filming  a report on the large-scale destruction of mangroves in Mundra, Gujarat, due to the construction of a port by the company.

# In April, Bikash Swain, the publisher of Suryaprava, an Odiya daily alleged intimidation by police, following a series of adverse reports that he published. Last September, Swain was arrested by police and protests by journalists about vindictive action by police have obviously failed to have an effect.

# On May 3, ironically on world press freedom day, Goan Observer journalist Gary Azavedo was attacked and illegally detained by security staff of a mining company in Cauverm, Goa when he went there to cover the on-going agitation against mining companies.

# In May, three journalists were beaten up allegedly by CPI(M) supporters in Burdwan district in West Bengal.

# On May 8, in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, a group of youths, allegedly supporters of Nabam Tuki, Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee president and State PWD minister, attacked several media offices, including the local office of PTI and a local newspaper Arunachal Front, apparently to protest a report in a leading daily involving their leader.

# On May 19, MiD-DAY reporter Tarakant Dwivedi, better known as Akela, was arrested under the Official Secrets Act by the Government Railway Police (GRP) for an article written over a year ago in the Mumbai Mirror that exposed the poor condition in which hi-tech weapons procured after the 26/11 attack were being kept by the railway security forces.

# On May 21, unidentified assailants waylaid V.B. Unnithan, Kollam-based senior reporter of the widely circulated Malayalam daily, Mathrubhumi, and assaulted him with iron rods. Unnithan was heading home after work on April 16.

(Former Indian Express reporter Geeta Seshu is co-ordinator of The Free Speech Hub at The Hoot)

***

Also read: The unsung heroes who perished before J.Dey

J. DEY: ‘When eagles are silent, parrots jabber’

The unsung heroes who perished before J. Dey

13 June 2011

The killing of Mid-Day investigations editor J. Dey prompts Mail Today to compile a roster of journalists who have met a similar end in the line of duty. Not surprisingly, “troubled” Kashmir and the northeast account for the majority of the 31 deaths in the last 14 years.

Image: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: J. DEY: ‘When eagles are silent, parrots jabber’

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