India’s premier news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) seems to be entering into a deep crisis. This impression has been gaining ground ever since the PTI management sacked 297 staffers with one stroke which has led to a series of legal battles in labour dispute forums. The latest buzz that is doing rounds is that at least 70 journalists are going to be sacked in the second round of retrenchment soon due to financial crisis due to the cancellation of its subscription from various media firms. PTI’s Twitter handle is inactive for more than a month.
The management headed by Editor in Chief Vijay Joshi and CEO Venky Venkatesh are arguing that the massive retrenchments became necessary because of operational losses suffered by the company. Does that mean that the company is sinking? If yes, why? Why is PTI financially in the red zone even after having an almost-monopoly in India’s print media sector? Former and current employees feel that this is simply due to the deterioration in news delivery. For the past two years, PTI has been caught for many peddling fake news and getting slapped royally after clarifications and rejoinders. Due to the lack of credibility or deterioration in the news delivery, by mid-2018, PTI lost almost 75 subscribers, most of which were major media firms. Worse, there is no new subscriber for PTI for the past two years. In November 2017 alone, PTI lost two major media firms which used to pay Rs.2 crores annually, according to insiders. The biggest subscriber Prasar Bharati has already asked PTI to cut their exorbitant subscription fee of Rs.9.5 crores per annum while the news agency charges around Rs.85 lakhs on average from private channels. PTI management is running behind Information and Broadcasting Ministry to maintain their highly paid subscription of Prasar Bharati. Many I&B Ministry officials point out that nowadays, private video agency ANI is providing better service and PTI feed is actually not at all up to the mark in the current digitised world.
Many private subscribers and media firms are also said to be unhappy over the deterioration in PTI services over the last one year. There have even been written complaints and warnings by subscribers that they might disconnect the PTI services because of its inadequacies and mistakes, and delays in delivering news. Even many Government departments using PTI feed started complaining about the “bad services” given by PTI. Many feel PTI is going the UNI way, another news agency which has almost become redundant.
The former and current employees say all this is happening because of the failure of the editorial leadership. After all news content is the core business of PTI and if the quality of its core service is bad, the editorial leadership is to be held responsible, said a former PTI journalist.
“For past two decades, PTI was under the total control of M K Razdan and his long stint has collapsed the mojo of the agency. No fresh blood and monotonous editorial management had killed the spirit. The PTI’s Board comprising media barons were in the pocket of Razdan and they never cared for PTI. And after Razan crossed the age of 75, with nine or ten extensions of service, the Board did not take interest to find new heads and they left it to Razdan to select his successors. Avoiding all seniors, Razdan preferred Vijay Joshi in February 2017, who was working out of the country for more than two decades. This new person is unaware of many things and could not handle the situation. Because of the incompetence at the helm, mistakes and blunders in stories have become the order of the day in PTI. This has hurt PTI’s credibility badly,” said a noted ex PTI journalist.
PGurus had reported in detail about how PTI’s Editor-in-Chief Vijay Joshi was caught by Parliament’s Accreditation Committee for making wrong claims of his journalistic experience in covering Parliament.
According to PTI journalists, now the management had hired a marketing team at huge salaries to canvass subscriptions. “We are not selling soap or powder to make big claims on quality. We are in the business of news and we are selling our product to media companies who are so sensitive to the quality of the product,” they said, adding that the subscription canvassing marketing team could not bring a single subscriber for the past one year.
Already PTI management is facing many legal cases from the retrenchment of more than 270 staffers. The staffers’ federation has approached Delhi High Court and said that the retrenchment package was extremely low. They accuse that management has warned the retrenched staffers of dire consequences of freezing Provident Fund and Gratuity Benefits if they went ahead with legal battles. Now many journalist unions have engaged senior lawyers on the latest apprehensions on the plan of the PTI management to mass retrenchment of more than 70 journalists in coming days.
 Did PTI Chief issue a fatwa to black out news on Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani? Feb 17, 2018, PGurus.com
 PTI Editor Vijay Joshi caught for making false claims by Lok Sabha. Permanent pass withheld – Nov 28, 2017, PGurus.com
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