2017 is not a good year for those working in media. Many houses are planning huge retrenchments, salary cuts and recruitment freeze. Hindustan Times has already declared closure of four editions and three bureaus, leaving more than a 1000 employees in the lurch. As per the circular issued by the company, Kolkata, Indore, Bhopal and Ranchi editions will be closed down from January 9. Shobhana Bharatiya headed Birla Group’s Hindustan Times has also decided to shut down its bureaus in Allahabad, Varanasi and Kanpur. All these bureaus belong to Uttar Pradesh and the shocking decision came when the state goes to Assembly polls.
The reason cited in the Hindustan Times (HT) circular is very curious.
The media owners are floating a theory that this decision was taken by them due to the demonetization affects. The question that begs to be asked is if media world was running on cash and carry system till date? Some media owners excuse is that advertising revenue has decreased due to demonetization. But those should have been offset by several banking and digital payments advertisements that have steeply increased during this period.
The reason cited in the Hindustan Times (HT) circular is very curious. It says the decision of closure of four editions and three bureaus in UP were taken due to the massive investments in Delhi Head Office’s digitization programme.
“Post our major investments into a Digital Future and creation of an ultra modern & Hi-tech newsroom in Delhi, backed by an enormous effort to culturally transform our ways of meeting the changing consumption trends, we are now shifting gears to move towards an accelerated digital trajectory,” says the first paragraph of the circular on shutting down editions and bureaus leading to around 1000 employees retrenchment. The detailed letter with jugglery of words is published below.
Moreover HT’s Delhi office’s Business Bureau is almost closed as most of the staff has been terminated. Management says’ the Group’s Business paper Mint can manage reporting for Hindustan Times. This move came after the advice of Boston Consulting Group (BSG). In Delhi alone, as many as 40 journalists were in the target of the HR Department of Hindustan Times to implement the cost cutting advised by the BSG.
Insiders say, Times of India Group has already declared a recruitment freeze.
According to reliable sources Ananda Bazaar Patrika (ABP) Group mentored by Aveek Sarkar is also planning major layoffs at his TV and newspapers including the Telegraph. It is believed that the HR department of ABP Group has targeted around 500 posts to be shelved off.
Insiders say, Times of India Group has already declared a recruitment freeze. According to this decision, there will be no recruitments to replace retirements or resignations. Last heard the management is also envisaging salary cuts, which was once implemented in 2009, citing Global Meltdown as an excuse.
It is interesting to note that no dissent has been heard from Editors’ Guild or Journalist Unions, which normally create a lot of noise on many subjects, usually on politically motivated issues. This time around, the reaction across the board is one of muted surprise.
Here is a copy of the email sent by HT to its employees…
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