Posts Tagged ‘INS’

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:

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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

INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

21 January 2011

Justice G.R. Majithia (left), chairman of the wage boards for working journalists and non-journalists and other newspaper employees, submitting the recommendations to labour secretary P.K. Chaturvedi in New Delhi, on January 1, 2011

The following is the full text of the media release issued by the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) in response to the report submitted by the wage board led by former Supreme Court judge, G.R. Majithia, which recommended a 35 per cent hike in salaries for working journalists, and increased the retirement age to 65 years.

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“Members of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) have at an emergency meeting held in Mumbai on 20 January 2011 expressed shock and dismay at the report submitted by the chairman of the wage boards for working journalists and other newspaper employees, and said that this, if accepted by the government, would drive several newspaper establishments out of business. They urged the government to reject the report.

“The president of the INS, Kundan R. Vyas, said that the report was severely flawed and utterly one-sided. The wage boards had been improperly constituted, and the report had been prepared in breach of several rules and time-tested procedures. Further, the wage boards had exceeded their remit under the statute by suggesting measures that were manifestly beyond their scope and terms of reference.

“Echoing the sentiments of the large body of newspapers represented at the emergency meeting, Vyas said that the existence of these wage boards was itself out of tune with the times as even the national commission on labour had in 2002 recommended that there was no need for any wage board, statutory or otherwise, for fixing the wages for workers in any industry. The newspaper industry is the only one which has statutory wage boards, and their presence is aimed at financially compromising the ability of establishments to function in a free and fearless manner, Vyas said.

“The present wage boards had submitted their report without prior consultations among members. The boards had ignored settled principles to assess the capacity to pay, and had made no effort to assess the burden on the newspaper industry, Vyas said. Not just this, the wage boards had not even bothered to publish tentative proposals as was done by earlier wage determining authorities, to respect the principles of fair play and natural justice.”

An Aroon Purie tribute worthy of emulation

24 September 2010

Farewell speeches and circulars in Indian media houses—where good HR practises are somewhere between 18th and 19th century—are usually grim, graceless, god-awful affairs.

The moment the exit sign lights up over an employee’s head, the good times are over: bosses suddenly bare their fangs, colleagues start hissing amongst themselves, and management chamchas slither around suspiciously.

Take a bow, Aroon Purie.

The India Today bossman has penned a touching farewell note for his Bombay bulwark, Mohini Bhullar (in picture), whose exit from the group was announced on Wednesday vide an email.

Below is the full text of Purie’s syanora laden with grace, goodness, gratitude—and civility—something that pumped-up managers and accountants would do well to ctrl-x and ctrl-v.

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“Please join me in making this announcement very special.

“Because, it’s about a very special person.

“Because, it’s perhaps the most important and emotional formal announcements I have ever made in my life, and one I thought I would never make. It’s about someone who stood by my side for nearly a lifetime, and helped me steer the company from its inception to the enviable position it occupies today. It’s about someone who’s an integral part of the India Today group – and my professional life.

“Mohini has decided to move on from the India Today group effective September 30, 2010, after a glorious innings spanning over 40 years. She came on board with our group company Thomson Press as part of the sales team and was the first to establish a beachhead sales office in Bombay for Thomson Press. When we entered publishing, this became the very critical ad sales office for LMI [Living Media India] which she headed. The rest, as they say, is history. What a journey it has been!

“Mohini’s unflinching zeal, conviction and never-say-die attitude are some of the personal traits that have made her an indispensable part of the company. I can say this without any hesitation that the success we enjoy today is primarily because of her contribution and her enormous dedication.

“There was one common thread that kept her going in her entire career with the India Today Group, be it as editor of Bombay magazine, as publishing director of ITMB, as marketing director of the entire company, or for that matter, as the executive director in charge of the events SBU. It was her indomitable will, energy and her total professionalism. She is revered as the ‘Mother Queen’ of Indian print media by advertisers, agencies and the media alike – a fitting tribute to her competence and accomplishments. She has handled all her diverse and challenging roles with her usual aplomb.

“Now at the golden age of 77, Mohini is still very young in every which way. She still takes early morning flights, climbs up 3 flights of stairs at our F14 office in Connaught Place, probably faster than most of us, parties till late, shares the latest jokes with the young trainees who work with her and even supervises the event set-up for the IT Conclave at 1 am! And I also know for sure that she responds to calls, emails and text messages within a few seconds. Truly amazing!

“When I was running Thomson Press, and we were trying to figure out how to create our own work for the press, we came up with the idea of creating our own children books. Not finding any willing authors, she and I even wrote children books. We had great fun together. That’s the way it has been ever since.

“She brought to India from the Thomson UK the rights (for free of course) to publish a medical journal called the Journal of Applied Medicine, and that small publication was our first foray into magazine publishing and a precursor to India Today and all that followed.

“Mohini has single-handedly helped to build the brand India Today, while leaving me and the founding edit team to concentrate on the various editorial challenges when we launched India Today in 1975. Thanks to her, I didn’t, and still don’t have to make a single sales call to any company or ad agency. She completely insulated the editorial team from the commercial pressures advertisers are prone to exerting and established the abiding cornerstone of the company of uncompromising editorial integrity.

“Mohini has inspired the key younger generation of leaders in the Group. Our CEO, Ashish Bagga, tells me that his first interview as management trainee was with Mohini in Bombay in 1983, at her office in Jolly Maker Chambers. Malcolm Mistry, publishing director, was Mohini’s understudy for over 6 years and was handpicked by her. Most of the advertising and media professionals in India have at some point in time worked or interacted with Mohini. She has represented the Company on the INS, ABC, NRS, ASCI, MRUC, AIM and many other premier industry bodies.

“But alas, I guess, all good things have to come to an end. Mohini has decided to move on and I on behalf of the entire 5000 employees of ITG, comprising TP, LMI, TVTN, IDIL, MT, ITAS, Bagit, HCI and all the ones that are currently being incubated, wish her an amazing and successful journey ahead. A journey full of good health, happiness, prosperity and satisfaction.

“It is my good fortune to have found a wonderful colleague like Mohini so early in my working life and I am filled with sadness that our ‘lucky shining star’ will be leaving us. But I know for sure that she will continue to cast her lucky charm on us and guide us to even better and happier times.

“We will all really miss Mohini. No words are sufficient to thank her for her contribution to the Group. We will continue to reap the benefits of that for the years to come.

“Please do join me in wishing Mohini the very best in all her future pursuits and to radiate happiness to all around her with her ever so charming smile and demeanor.”

K.M. Mathew, chief editor, Manorama, no more

1 August 2010

sans serif records with regret the passing away of K.M. Mathew, the rubber planter who became chief editor of Malayala Manorama and founding editor of the newsweekly magazine, The Week.

The end came in his residence in Kottayam this morning. Mr Mathew was 93 years old, and is survived by three sons—Mammen Mathew, Philip Mathew, Jacob Mathew, respectively editor, managing editor and executive editor of the family-owned Manorama.

Mr Mathew had been a member of the Press Council of India, president of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), and chairman of the Press Trust of India (PTI). A Padmabhushan awardee, he played a pivotal role in making a regional Malayalam newspaper India’s biggest.

Mr Mathew had been predeceased by his wife Annamma Mathew, the chief editor of India’s largest selling women’s magazine Vanitha, and author of an acclaimed food column Pachaka Vidhi, which later became a best selling cook book.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Is a bank not allowed to change its newspaper?

31 January 2010

PRESS RELEASE: “T. Venkattram Reddy, president, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), strongly condemns the direction issued vide a circular dated 15 December 2009  by the deputy general manager (P&E) of the Kerala State Co-operative Bank Limited, Kerala, to all senior managers of the bank directing the branch offices of the bank to stop subscription of the Malayalam daily being subscribed and make available Deshabhimani daily, a Malayalam daily published by a major political party, which is in power in Kerala, at their offices.

“This is in gross violation of the spirit of the constitutional provisions and a direct threat to the freedom of the press.   It is clearly a restriction imposed by a government bank to curtail circulation and tantamount to promoting and marketing of a newspaper published by a political party in power.

“Freedom of the press cannot be curtailed by   administrative guidance or instructions, which clearly lack the sanction of law.”

World Association of Newspapers congress put off

21 January 2009

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The annual congress of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), scheduled to be held in recession-hit, scam-hit Hyderabad in March this year, has been put off to the end of the year.

According to one report, the meeting was postponed to due to low registration.

“The economic crisis has had a devastating effect on participation in the events, which are simpldy not viable at this stage,” Timothy Balding of WAN told Juan Antonio Giner, founder-director, Innovation International Media.

A press release from V. Shankaran, officiating secretary general of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), reads thus:

“The 62nd World Newspaper Congress/16th World Editors Forum and Info Services Expo have been postponed and will now be held from 1-3 December 2009 at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre, Hyderabad, India.

“The decision to postpone these most prestigious annual events of the print media the world over, which were originally planned for March this year, was due to certain global compulsions.

“World Association of Newspapers (WAN), which represents over 18,000 leading newspaper publications the world over, organizes these annual events of the print media in different parts of the world in collaboration with a host country industry member association.  The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has successfully bid for  hosting these events in India.   In its history of 61 years these events have never been held in South Asia.

“Over 2,000 top cream of world’s most influential owner-publishers, editors and media personalities in the print media are expected to attend these events.  It is a great opportunity to showcase India to the rest of the world.”

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