hese days, the Indian media houses are going through various turbulences — some have adopted new trends of survival and others are just managing the show. Amid of all these, there is one big news agency that has hit the headlines on a sad note. The Press Trust of India (PTI) management took a decision to lay off 297 staffers because the staff were allegedly ineffectual and they could not adapt themselves with changing skills. The PTI management believes that the terminated staff were unfit for the organisation and the competitive news world. So, this decision has not gone down well with the employees’ federation and other unions of the journalists, who have demanded the immediate withdrawing of the order and have hovered to protest if this request is not met. Meanwhile, it’s very disheartening to see the cold shoulder responses from the other media houses for their fraternity members. The federation alone sent letter to the PTI management.
On behalf of the employees, they strongly protest the PTI’s unilateral and unprovoked decision to illegally retrench 297 PTI employees all over India. The Federation demanded that this “illegal retrenchment must be withdrawn with immediate effect”. It also conducted a daylong gate meetings and dharnas at all PTI centers, but so far, this could not generate much pressure. There are various posts on social media criticising the PTI management; some has blamed the Modi government because after getting additional charge of one of the more prestigious ministries in the Cabinet, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani took up at PTI. The issue, which caught the IB Minister’s eye was a tweet that PTI had put out, which showed men in Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar masks celebrating Friendship Day. The link between the image and the story it accompanied was tenuous at best as it was about Nitish Kumar urging the Centre to allocate funds for the lower judiciary in Bihar. There are many speculations but no one exactly knows why the management has chosen to suddenly throw out their staff who have spent long years building up the country’s premier news agency and taking it to the new heights. They have been summarily thrown out by putting up a list of names at the PTI office; dues have been directly transferred to individual bank accounts. Everything happened just being clueless; those journalists who are sacked have lots of personal challenges, from paying property EMI to car loan and family priorities, they have not been given any additional funds to settle with trauma of losing job. Meanwhile, the searching for new job is not easy as media houses are going through the worst of its time and hardly any vacancies around. The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) also called for journalists within and outside the PTI to come together and “show solidarity” with the “victimised colleagues” in the PTI. The wider community of media persons, both journalists and non-journalists, needs to stand tall against this decision but most of them refrained to be a part of the protest.
In the recent time, the Indian media is growing aimlessly; they lost its focus because business houses or politicians own the banners. The Indian Press today is over 220-years-old. The Indian Radio is about 100-years-old and Doordarshan is about 60-years-old. In January 1780, James Augustus Hicky started the first newspaper, a weekly, variously called as the Bengal Gazette or the Calcutta General Advisor or Hicky Gazette. He is still regarded as the father of the Indian Journalism. Before Independence, the Media was a mission. Its mission was to free India from the clutches of the foreign rulers, the British. There were many restrictions on the Media in the form of regulations. The infamous gagging act was brought to suppress the vernacular press, for example, is one such regulation. After Independence too there have been many commissions but those were to streamline the working conditions of journalists; categorisation of newspapers into small, medium, and large; commercial orientation for revenue earning by radio; constitution of press council; establishment of national level news agencies and the like.
The Radio in India, as an organisation is only two years behind the British Broadcasting Corporation. Now, it is terrestrial radio or sky radio reaching 100 per cent geographical area of the Indian subcontinent.
If we look at the various functions of the Media, they are Information, Interpretation, Education, Entertainment, and Evaluation. Media informs the people on what is happening around. It interprets the issues for the benefit of the people. It educates the people on various schemes, plans, and programmes of the government. It entertains the people through various arts and cultural forms. It also evaluates the functioning of the systems in the society. But what is happening today? Media, that was a mission before independence, grew as a profession after independence and of late, it is being criticised for becoming a business without ethics and without any social responsibility. It is because the owners of the print and private electronic channels are the owners of either a business establishment or an Industrial house or a financial institution. News, naturally in the hands of these businessmen, became a commodity. News, which shall be a bare fact, is now angled or slanted to make it marketable news. Media wanted stories in place of plain news based on facts. Editorial has become either dictatorial or suspicious.
It is, therefore; often being quoted as “bad news is good news and the good news is no news”. We read the news, listen to the Radio, and watch TV to find fictions and scoops or the breaking sensations. There is a lot of competition here — those who fit into the game, are survivors and those who can’t, go PTI way. Any Institution or Organisation or mission or profession is the reflection of the very society and its individuals. The individual is a measure of the Society. If the society wants bad, media shall be ready to supply it. If the society demands good, the media shall make such arrangements. It all depends on the society and its individuals and their taste being the consumers of news. Well! My purpose is to mention all this here to tell, who will decide the efficiency of a journalist? Who will decide the fate of its employees and why??
At a stretch, hundreds of journalists are shown door from an agency — Press Trust of India (PTI), the largest news agency in India. It provides news coverage and information about the region in English, Hindi, and other languages. The PTI has offices in Bangkok, Beijing, Colombo, Dubai, Islamabad, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow, New York, and Washington D.C. The Press Trust of India is the only news agency in South Asia which operates its own communication satellite, an INSAT, to broadcast news and information. What has happened to such a big entity? What made them lay off staff on an abrupt note? Sadly, this happened ahead of the 2019 elections! Not sure whom to blame and how to deal with it.
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