Saturday 28 November 2020

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Society | Covid19

First casualty of Covid19 in Goa: The Media

 

Media in Goa is the worst hit due to Covid19 lockdowns. Not less than 60 media employees are ‘home quarantined’ permanently, ‘institutional quarantine’ has cost all others with 15 to 50 per cent salary, practically everybody is ‘Covid positive’ and it has already reported the first ‘casualty’ - the ‘Gomantak Times’.

May it be the newspaper or TV channel, from the first day of lockdown, everybody tried to reach their reader or viewer through digital platforms, if not possible to print it. Risking their lives, the journalists are feeding them with all possible information about Covid19 and even the agonies the people, especially  the migrant labourers, are going through. 

But these ‘Covid warriors’ are neither applauded nor rewarded. On the contrary, they are either thrown out of jobs or slammed with huge salary cuts. 

“Worst is the hypocrisy of some big corporate houses which run these media organisations. They are donating for Covid fund in crores and getting publicity through its own media platforms, but laying off its own staff who earn a few thousands”, says Rajtilak Naik, President of Goa Union of Journalists. 

For over 15 lakh population, out of which not less than 3 lakhs are migrants, Goa has 20 newspapers and TV channels, which function by engaging employees. The only-digital platforms are however one-man armies, like goanews.com. 

Out of total 15 newspapers, 9 are in Marathi, 5 in English and 1 in Konkani. And 5 are TV channels. 

THE SHUTDOWN OF GT

Wednesday, 27th May. Editor of ‘Gomantak Times’ gets a call from Pune headquarters. He is informed that the management has decided to shut  down its English publications. ‘Sakal Times’ is already shut down. ‘Gomantak Times’ from 1st of June. 

“The Editor called all of us at 4.30 pm, saying the Pune office wants to talk to us. But none of them had time to spare for us. Then he played the telephonic conversation he had with the high officials in the morning. Since then, we have no official intimation of any kind. It was such a casual shutdown”, a journalist from GT told goanews.com.

Till date, they don’t know their fate. But they have been told to resign.

“None of them will resign. Let them act in a legal manner. We will fight it. Majority of our colleagues are on a Wage Board”, says GUJ President Rajtilak Naik. 

‘Gomantak Times’ is a sister publication of ‘Gomantak’, Goa’s oldest newspaper started by Chowgules in 1962. The English edition was started in 1986. Due to the financial crisis, the House of Chowgules sold  it to Sakal Publications from Pune in 2000. 

The future of 13 newspaper employees of GT, the Covid Warriors, is still hanging in fire. 

And there is a buzz that few more newspapers and TV channels are in a pipeline. 

THROWN ON THE ROAD

It started with Fomento Media, owned by Fomento Group, laying off its employees across the board, not even sparing the manager of ‘Prudent’ TV channel. 

Known for the merciless retrenchments even earlier, Fomento Group this time laid off total 23 employees; 10 from ‘Govan Varta’ (Marathi), 9 from ‘Prudent’ (TV channel) and 2 each from ‘The Goan’ (English) and ‘Bhangarbhuim’ (Konkani).

This was followed by ‘Lokmat’ (Marathi), while shutting down three bureau offices in Mapusa, Ponda and Vasco and retrenching the support staff of composing, admin and junior reporters and photographers. The reporters from these three towns have been told to work from home. Office has provided them computers. 

This  Nagpur-based chain of newspapers has laid off total 16 employees, including 4 sub-editors from Konkan working in Goa as they are locked up across the border. In addition, three correspondents of Goa, who were on retainership. 

Also axed are 5  reporters from ‘Prime TV’ (told to work as per-story-basis correspondents) and one each from ‘Times of India’ and ‘In Goa’ TV, as per the data compiled by GUJ. 

The total ‘home quarantined’ Covid victims are 59. 

There is something called ‘screening test’ for Covid. Falling in this category right now are, reportedly, employees of ‘Tarun Bharat’ (Marathi), ‘Herald’ (English) and ‘Dainik Herald’ (Marathi), who are being screened to list out people to be 'home quarantined' (retrenchments). 

In fact sources say ‘Herald’ has told many employees not to report to work, not only from the Konkan region who cannot cross the border but even those who live in Panaji or around. 

And after retrenching its staff in Belgaum, ‘Tarun Bharat’ has also started scrutinising its staff in Goa to follow the suite. 

Though another leading publication like ‘Navhind Times’ has not yet started retrenchment, sources reveal that possibilities are being explored also in one of the biggest media house, which also runs Navprabha (Marathi) and Goa365 (TV channel).  

SALARY CUTS ACROSS THE BOARD

Salary deduction however is a common phenomenon, whether it’s a small publication or a big media house. And it ranges between 10 per cent to 55 per cent. 

Each media organisation has adopted a different strategy for salary deduction, but has fortunately not touched anybody earning up to Rs 20,000. 

Not only Navhind Publications, which also includes ‘Navprabha’ (Marathi) and a subsidiary ‘Goa365’ (TV), but the whole Dempo Group of Companies has gone for a salary cut in slabs. It’s 10% between Rs 20k to 50k, 20% between 50k to 1 lakh and 30% above 1 lakh. But they have assured to reimburse it in future, by deducting TDS from the original salary amount but not paying the actual amount of salary right now. 

A leading national-level newspaper like ‘Times of India’ has also gone for a salary cut of minimum 25% in Goa while another leading Marathii newspaper ‘Tarun Bharat’, Goa edition, has gone for 55% salary cut across the board, without any slabs. 

The compilation of data by GUJ reveals that another leading newspaper ‘Gomantak’ (Marathi) has gone for a salary cut up to 50%. They are not paid salary, but have been given ADVANCE, claiming that the salary would be paid in ‘future’.

Salary deductions are also implemented in the organisations where  retrenchments have taken place. It’s 20% to 30% in ‘Lokmat’ and from 10% to 45% in different slabs in Fomento Media. 

Better not talk about small newspapers like ‘Goa Doot’ (Marathi) which is up to 20% or ‘Prime’ TV, which has told its staff to work on alternate days. It ultimately means 50% wage cut,without anybody losing a job. 

FINANCIAL CRISIS

Series of lockdowns, which are expected to prolong till June end, have hit very badly the media organisations that entirely depend upon the circulation and advertising. 

“My duty was till 5.30 pm. But the flow of advertisements was such that I could never leave the office before 7 pm. Now, not more than two to three customers come in a day to release an advertisement, that too the smallest one possible”, says one employee of a leading newspaper in Madgao. 

“Against our assured monthly revenue of not less than Rs 4 lakh, we earned hardly Rs 10K in April. Shall I call it a revenue”, asks a proprietor of a small private TV channel. 

Another newspaper, which normally toes the government line, says that there is hardly any government advertisement at state level and the national level DAVP has not paid us for the last one year.

“Private advertisement is zero”, says this newspaper official.

DIGITAL BOOMERANGED

From the day ‘Janata Curfew’ was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22nd March, door delivery as  well as counter sale of newspapers came to a grinding halt till the second lockdown, which ended on 3rd May.  

According to Waman Bhate, leading newspaper agent of Panaji owning ‘Varsha Book Stall’, his counter sale came down by 75% even after newspapers started printing once again post-lockdown 2.0. 

“Home delivery is still not picking up”, he says, in spite of lockdown being relaxed. 

There are two reasons, according to him as well as the delivery boys whom goanews.com spoke to. 

“We are not allowed to enter some colonies even today, fearing the spread of virus through us as well as newspaper. And almost 50% of customers have told us they don’t want newspapers any more. They are now used to digital e-papers”, says a home delivery boy. 

Newspaper dealers, whether from Pedne, Bicholim or Canacona, told goanews.com that newspaper sales have dropped to less than 30% because hardly anybody comes to the market. 

As a result, the print order of newspapers has plunged drastically, though everybody claims that their print order has not reduced but provides figures of drastic reductions of rival newspapers. 

goanews.com thus reaches a conclusion that the print order of every newspaper has reduced  drastically. 

In order to overcome this drop in sale, Tarun Bharat has increased its price to Rs 8 for a copy and Rs 10 on Wednesdays and Sundays. But newspapers sellers say it has resulted into further drop.

On the other hand, TV channels are unable to provide video footage of all the events as hardly any activity takes place these days. The news bulletins are thus becoming monotonous and dragging to somehow fill the space for 24 to 28 minutes. 

As a whole, it looks like the media has become a vicious circle. No revenue due to lockdown, which is resulting in no sustainability. And the solution the owners have found is to  go for rampant salary deductions, layoffs and even shut downs. 

“But why only media organisations are shut down or hit by layoffs or salary cuts when other industries are sustaining the economic crisis? Are we really the ‘Covid warriors or 'use & throw material”, asks Rajtilak Naik, president of GUJ.


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Total Comments :4

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Extremely insightful article. Thanks for sharing the information.

Hoping the situation for media improves now as the newspaper circulations have started again.

 
Shashank Kaushik , Chandigarh

Baba heading ek ani content ek mare

 
Acharya , Panjim

Extremely well written Sandesh Bhai. You nailed the situation with pinpoint precision. Shall we call it a bloodbath or a carnage in Goan media? Job and salary cuts happening all over the country. Seems like a tornado has ripped apart the media...

 
Dev Raj Thakur , Patna

Media Barons lived on blood & sweat of journalists in good times. They are the lifeline of Journalism. They cannot be disowned/abandoned like Migrants who believed on daily wages/contract payments. Hope the Media Houses encash their stack of FDs for the sake of their employees.

 
Rosario D'Souza , Margo(Fatorda)

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