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Indian TV media sinking like Titanic?


logomkA few years ago, Indian television media was booming, so much so that anybody and everybody was setting up a new channel. The number of news channels boomed, today, counting regional and national channels, there are over 400 news channels in India. Even in the English media, the sex, lies and alcohol fuelled escapades during the establishment of one news channel did not stop the party.

Salaries shot up, top journalists at some channels earn over Rs 2.5 crore per year, even those who do long-winded, boring talk shows once a week earn multiple lakhs for walking and talking for an hour. Coupled with stock options and what some in the industry describe as blatant stock-market manipulation, Editors in some channels have bought houses that cost in excess of Rs 20 crore in South Delhi and South Mumbai.

Yet, the bubble has been pricked. In some regional channels salaries have not been paid for months on end, and people ranging from editors to desk hands, OB-van drivers and even peons are being let go as the advertising fuelled mania ends as the economy tanks. And to make matters worse, acting on viewer complaints the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) which regulates broadcast media in India like the Federal Communications Council in the United States has decreed that no TV channel can have more than 12 minutes of advertising every hour.

While viewers are understandably elated about this, news channels that sometimes have over 30 minutes of innerwear and deodorant adverts every hour are deflated. They tried to fight the regulation, but found no sympathy with the I&B Ministry which it seems, believes that there should be a cull of news channels. And as advertisers feel the heat from the gradual growth slowdown, the reduction of ad-time supply has not brought about an increase in rates as a story in Mint points out.

So it is not just media houses that are getting impacted. NDTV recently laid off almost all the staff at their business channel Profit in Mumbai and rumours have it that the channel might soon be shuttered as they have failed to find a buyer. Another business news channel is on the verge of shutting down as well. But, the big news is at the Reliance-owned TV18 which was set-up by Raghav Behl. Apparently, the account whiz-kids at Maker Chambers – IV have gone through the books and do not like what they see.

According to one TV18 insider, 500 people, many from IBN7, service staff and operations people among them are on their way out. It is also believed that the popular Karan Thapar might also be shifted out. However, at the same time, the management at the company are still celebrating, the CEO of the beleaguered CNN-IBN which lost an estimated Rs 50 crore last year has acquired a new German SUV.

Other media groups too have been cutting the jobs of junior journalists and staff in the name of ‘cost-cutting’ while fat cats continue to enjoy inflated salaries and perks. Little wonder then that journalism institutes are desperately looking for students as they risk going the way of air-hostess training institutes.

(Courtesy – niticentral.com)


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