By Cyril Sam Source: Medium.com
[Last updated at 0801hrs on 19 June 2020]
The press in India is going through an economic crisis. Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the announcement of a nationwide lock down by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 March 2020, the economy came to a grinding halt. The news industry is particularly affected.
I am trying to document how COVID19 is affecting the news industry in India. As a first step, I am trying to make a timeline of events as they unfold.
I am tracking newsrooms cutbacks in India due to COVID19. If you are personally affected or know of any newsroom that has made cutbacks please do fill up this form: https://forms.gle/WSM5et1WnHw1dmmH7
I am populating the timeline using two information sources:
- Public domain
Information such as communications published by trade associations, industry bodies, specific news media companies, etc. and by
- Tip-offs received here: https://forms.gle/WSM5et1WnHw1dmmH7
Tip-offs are verified by speaking with journalists affected, documenting company emails received by them.
My name is Cyril Sam. I am a journalist based in New Delhi. I report on the business of news in India. I have been speaking with people who manage the business of news since the lockdown was announced, trying to understand their point of view. Most decision makers are playing wait-and-watch to see how the lockdown unfolds and how soon the advertising markets recover. Meanwhile, many have begun consolidating their businesses.
The crisis and the response to it are evolving. This, therefore, remains a work in progress. Support this project by making donations here: https://rzp.io/l/3JhhBGu
Also, if you can help fill in the gaps, please fill out the form linked here, click on the following link https://forms.gle/e3rVcdLcFb9nTYdC8, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to me on Twitter at @cyrilsam, my DMs are open.
Here is what I know in reverse chronological order:
- On 18 June, The Hindu laid off an unknown number of journalists across editions, bureaus and verticals. So far, have confirmed loss of jobs about 10 journalists in Karnataka and 20 journalists in Mumbai. Journalists were threatened to resign or risk being terminated, which they were told will look bad on their CVs,
- On 17 June, Aroon Purie, the founder-publisher, owner of the India Today Group, in an internal email announced salary cuts and lay offs beginning this month. Harper’s Bazaar, India and Brides Today are the first products to be hit. It is still unclear how many journalists are affected and what is the extent of salary cuts,
- On 9 June, 13 journalists from the Hindustan Times’ Mumbai edition were forced to resign.
- Asiaville on Friday, 5 June laid off two journalists from its English website and five from its Hindi website. The website publishes content in English, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam. It is unclear currently if any journalists have been affected in Tamil and Malayalam operations.
- On Wednesday, 3 June Firstpost laid off an unknown number of journalists. If you have information, please tip me off here: https://forms.gle/1De2QazjLy5FFd98A
- The Telegraph formally announced closure of its Jharkhand and North East editions Sunday, 31 May 2020.
- Outlook announced retroactive salary cuts on 30 May 2020 for the months of April, May and June 2020. Salaries at the magazine have not been paid in full since January 2020. Earlier, on 25 March the magazine suspended print runs of publications including Outlook magazine and Outlook Money.
- TV Today Network announced ceasing operations and transmission of Delhi Aaj Tak with effect from 30 June 2020 in an internal communique Saturday 30 May.
- Sakal Times and Gomantak Times, will cease operations from 1 June 2020, according to a news report by Ad Gully. The closure impacts 45 editorial staff at Sakal Times and 13 journalists at Gomantak Times.
- Network 18 announced salary cuts on 27 May in an internal email. The cuts affect all Network 18 properties across television and digital,
- The New Indian Express will put its epaper behind a paywall beginning 1 June 2020. A notice was put up on the newspaper’s epaper website on 27 May 2020,
- An unconfirmed number of employees at The Hindustan Times have been laid off across different bureaus. The layoffs affect senior and junior editorial staff. Four journalists have been laid off in Gurugram and 30 editorial staff at the Chandigarh bureau were laid off. The journalists were asked to resign for a severance for two months.
Those affected among the senior staff include Poonam Saxena, who oversaw Ht’s features content for many years. In an internal email sent on 27 May at 3.01PM, Sukumar Ranganathan, the editor in chief of HT wrote, “Poonam Saxena,… has decided not to seek an extension at the end of her current term (which is May 31)”.
This is a developing story. Will update when there is more clarity.
This comes days after journalists in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi bureau of the Mint, HT’s business paper,were put on notice.
Journalists at the Hindustan Times and Mint were informed of the decision between 23 May and 27 May 2020.
- On 26 May, Patrika began terminating contracts of journalists across India. Patrika publishes multiple print editions from Rajashthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and also runs hyperlocal websites across multiple states. So, far nearly a quarter of the work force is affected. The termination affects people both under print and web operations. Earlier in April, the company began salary cut backs without informing the employees.
- ABP Digital laid off an unconfirmed number of journalists on 26 May 2020,
- Vikatan Group has laid off 172 employees in Chennai on 21 May. It is unclear how many journalists are affected. Will update when there is clarity.
- The Telegraph has announced the closure of its newsroom in Guwahati newsroom. The decision will lead to laying off of four of its five permanent journalists, according to a former employee.
- The Times of India in Kerala on 21 May 2020 formally announced the closure of two — Kochi upcountry and Malabar — of four of its edition in the state — Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kochi upcountry and Malabar beginning 31 May 2020.
- The Times of India in Kerala on 20 May 2020 laid-off seven reporters (three in Thiruvananthapuram, two in Kozhikode and one each in Malappuram and Kannur respectively) and three desk editors. The employees were asked on a WhatsApp call by the HR and the Assistant Resident Editor to tender their resignations for personal reasons. No written communication has been received by them yet. Those affected will receive one month’s salary as severance while those associated with the company for more than five years will also receive their gratuity.
It is important to note here that the News Broadcasters Association and the Indian Newspaper Society have claimed in the SC that there have so far been no lay-offs or salary cuts in newsrooms.
The News Minute reports the number of those laid-off today at the Times of India at 13.
- The New Indian Express will vacate rented offices across eight bureaus in Kerala beginning 31 May 2020, The Kochi Post reported on 17 May,
- The Times Group paywalled epapers of all its English titles — The Times of India, The Economic Times and Mirror —on 15 May 2020,
- The Times of India will close two — Kochi upcountry and Malabar — of its four editions — Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kochi upcountry and Malabar — in Kerala beginning 31 May 2020. The printer — Mathrubhumi — was informed on 14 May 2020, a senior employee confirmed. On 15 May 2020, 10 employees in circulation department of the two editions were given pink slips.
Times of India launched in the state with four edition in 2012 and currently employs 65 people across editorial in the state. Editorial employees have not been informed of any job losses yet on 16 April 2020. The four editions have a combined circulation of 150,000 copies across the state. Closure of the two editions will bring down the circulation of the paper to 100,000 copies.
- The Indian Newspaper Society filed reply on 13 May to a petition in the Supreme Court challenging lay-offs and cutbacks in newsrooms.
- The Caravan magazine announced salary cuts for the next four months in an internal email on 12 May. The email further said salaries will be paid in parts during the period,
- The New Indian Express in an internal email on 12 May 2020 announced salary cuts beginning 16 May 2020. Journalists working from home at TNIE were already facing a 30% cut,
- The News Broadcasters Association filed reply on 11 May to a petition in the Supreme Court challenging lay-offs and cutbacks in newsrooms.
- Anand Bazar Patrika, which also owns Fortune India, sent an internal email announcing vacating their rented offices in Delhi, Bengaluru, Noida, Chennai and Hyderabad on 10 May 2020,
- Uttar Pradesh suspended The Working Journalists Act, as part of suspending labour laws in the state on 8 May 2020. The move is significant for the press in India because most news media companies reporting from Delhi are based in the suburb of Noida in UP,
- The Economic Times cut jobs in Kochi, Chandigarh and Kolkata on 6 May, NewsLaundry reported,
- The Quint listed itself in the Bombay Stock Exchange on 6 May 2020 via a reverse takeover. The promoters sold the company to a listed company they own via a slump sale, at an enterprise value of Rs 30.58 crore, and an equity value of Rs. 12.62 crore.
- Tribune India announced pay cuts on 2 May in an internal circular,
- The Indian Express announced in an internal email delay in disbursing salaries for the month of April on 30 April,
- Fortune India sent its 20-people strong editorial team on a three month leave without pay on 28 April. The decision was communicated in an internal email. The email came with a consent form that the employees are expected sign,
- The Indian Newspaper Society wrote a second letter to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting demanding a two year tax holiday, increase official advertisement rates and budget spending on the sector on 25 April. The letter signed by INS President Shailesh Gupta mentioned: Since economic activity has nearly collapsed and there is no likelihood of advertising from the private sector, the losses are expected to continue at the same rate for the next 6–7 months (implying an additional loss of Rs 12–15,000 crore over the next 6–7 months) unless a strong stimulus is implemented by the government at the soonest.
- The Hindu announced pay cuts on 25 April 2020,
- JaiHind TV, a Malayalam TV channel based out of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala announced salary cuts on 25 April
- NDTV announced salary cuts in the range of 10%-40% in a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange on 23 April,
- Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL), which owns Times of India, Economic Times, Mirror, Nav Bharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Vijay Karnataka, etc., announced deferring of increments, restructuring of salary and salary cuts on 23 April 2020,
- Bloomberg-Quint announced shutting down of its television division. The move leads to 100 people losing jobs,
- A petition was filed in the Supreme Court by the National Alliance of Journalists, Delhi Union of Journalists and Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists against the Union of India, Indian Newspaper Society and News Broadcasters Association on 16 April 2020 for laying off journalists and for salary cuts,
- India Legal cut salaries of employees for the month of March on 15 April,
- The state of Maharashtra banned delivery of newspapers in Mumbai and Pune on 17 April,
- HT Media in an internal email announced deferring appraisals and restructuring salaries by moving part of fixed salaries to variable pay on 16 April 2020,
- Dainik Bhaskar restructured the salaries of nearly 1,000 employees (12% of the workforce), as reported by Reuters on 16 April 2020,
- Three journalists managing Times Life, a Sunday supplement were laid off on 13 April, as reported by NewsLaundry,
- Nai Duniya owned by Dainik Jagran suspended print operations on 13 April,
- Bloomberg-Quint owned by The Quintillion Media Pvt Ltd.sent an internal email announcing salary cuts on 13 April,
- Star of Mysore suspended print operations on 12 April 2020,
- News Nation laid off its English digital team of 15 journalists on 12 April,
- The Indian Newspaper Society wrote to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on 9 April demanding the removal of the 5 percent customs duty on newsprint, two-year tax holiday for newspaper establishments, 50 percent increase in advertisement rate of Bureau of Outreach and Communication and a 100 percent increase in budget spend for the print media.
- Some journalists at the Quint were asked to go on leave without pay, among others those earning above INR 65,000 were asked to take a salary cut. This was communicated to affected journalists on 9 April and 10 April,
- The New Indian Express paid only partial salary for the month of March and has assured its employees the remainder will be paid on 15 April. The company also did not renew contracts of some journalists, whose contracts ended on 31 March 2020. The information about delayed salaries was communicated to the staff on 5 April. Salaries were due on 7 April 2020,
- Patrika cut salaries on 7 April,
- Amar Ujala cut salaries on 7 April for everyone above the position of chief sub editor,
- India Ahead News announced salary cuts on 4 April 2020,
- The Business Standard sent out an internal email on salary cuts,
- The Indian Express sent out an internal email on salary cuts on 1 April,
- Sakal Group asked 15 journalists to tender their resignation on 31 March, reported NewsLaundry,
- Forbes India suspended print operations beginning issue dated 27 March,
- Outlook suspended print operations on 30 March 2020,
- Indian Newspaper Society writes to the Union Finance Ministry on 24 March 2020, seeking a two year tax holiday. The letter is titled, ‘Request for urgent relief to the Collapsing Newspaper sector hit by triple whammy of Coronavirus, plummeting advertising revenue and customs duty on newsprint’. The is letter signed by Shailesh Gupta, the President of the INS and one of the directors of Jagran Prakashan,
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown on 24 March 2020,
- Vendors in Mumbai, Delhi and other parts of India suspend newspaper delivery from 22 March to 31 March 2020,
- India’s Ministry of Labour and Employment issues a circular on 20 March 2020 to public and private employers advising them not to terminate employees or reduce wages,
- Hamara Mahanagar shut down operations on 18 March citing poor business viability.
If you work at any of these organisations or know of any news organisation that has been affected do reach out. I would love to speak with you. I am also curious to know what is happening in Indian language press outside Delhi.
Please also reach out if any information mentioned here is incorrect.
Support this project by making donations here: https://rzp.io/l/3JhhBGu