Saturday, January 21, 2017

Newspaper industry "using" Modi govt's vulnerability following noteban: Journalists' leader on Majithia award

By Our Representative
Is Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a “vulnerable position” vis-a-vis the powerful newspaper industry following his demonetization “misadventure”? It would seem so, if one believes in what a top trade unionist representing journalists' cause for higher pay for print media has to say.
Arguing that the noteban of November 8 last year is one of the main pretexts for the newspaper owners not seeking to implement the Government of India-appointed Majithia award for their employees, MJ Pandey, who is one of main faces of the joint action committee for implementing the award, says, the owners are taking advantage of the Modi government “vulnerable position” on this count.
Pandey, who heads the Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists (BUJ), says, “Newspaper owners are seeking to twist the arm of the Modi government” because of the vulnerability of the “demonetisation fiasco.”
Modi's vulnerability further increases, according to this leader, because of “the chaos over the forthcoming elections to the UP, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur state assemblies.”
Two separate wage boards were constituted under in May 2007 former Mumbai High Court Judge Justice GR Majithia for journalists and non-journalists in newspapers. Majithia gave award to the Centre on December 31, 2010.
Pandey's statement is in response to an unsigned Times of India (TOI) editorial, published on January 19. The TOI editorial, which says that the newspaper industry is “hard-hit by factors beyond its control”, and therefore it “needs reasonable tax and labour policies”, especially argues out how “demonetisation has wreaked havoc on the print media.”
According to the editorial “The Indian newspaper business is heavily dependent on advertising revenue, which contributes 70-80% to its total revenue. This was, in any case, showing little growth in the last few years – 4-6% compared to TV’s 15-18% and digital’s 35-40%. But demonetisation has compounded the situation by squeezing spends across almost all categories of advertisers.”
Print media: As seen by TOI edit
The editorial comes close on the heels of the recent closure of six editions of The Hindustan Times, which TOI makes the "peg" in order to allegedly “seek a range of concessions – from a part-discontinuance of the wage board for newspaper employees, to subsidies on advertising and tax”, says Pandey.
Providing the example of how the newspaper industry is seeking to take advantage of the alleged vulnerability in which the Modi government, Pandey points to the response of information and broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu to the TOI editorial: “If required consultations with stakeholder ministries will also be initiated; will also meet representatives of industry for discussions”.
Arguing that the industry's claim that the salaries of nearly 40,000 journalists and non-journalists under the award would hike by 45-50% if the award is implemented, Pandey quotes from the award, which says that there would be “around 35 and 20% increase in the wages/salaries over and above the salary” of journalists and non-journalists.
Saying that the wages would form “about 13.5% of the gross revenue in respect of newspaper establishments” once award is implemented, the award also insisted, it would result “in further burden of just 3.5 per cent of gross revenue.”
Calculating “gross revenue” by including multi-edition media houses' businesses in advertising and brand-related event management, entertainment, electronic and digital media, real estate, power generation, mining etc.”, Pandey argues, “They have to account for all their gross revenue. But the bosses do not want to comply.”

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