Hundreds of employees of the Network 18 group – one of the country’s leading broadcasters, which owns CNN-IBN, IBN 7, and CNBC-TV 18 among other channels – stare at an uncertain future as the company, in the middle of a ‘restructuring exercise’, is scheduled to downsize ‘massively’ as a part of ‘cost rationalisation’ on Friday.
Highly-placed channel sources, all of whom insisted on being anonymous, have told The Hindu that the network will ‘cut costs and human-resources by around 30 percent in each department’. There was no confirmation of the figure till late on Thursday evening, with authorized officials refusing to comment.
Insiders said it was ‘almost certain’ that contracts of over 150 employees in IBN 7, and over 200 employees in CNN-IBN, would be terminated. A knowledgeable source said, “For a story, a reporter, cameraperson, equipment, a vehicle, a driver has to be deployed. Costs in each of these categories – staffing, production, and infrastructure – will be cut.” It is learnt that senior editorial staffers in key divisions like sports, entertainment and research may face the axe.
A channel source said that they are providing ‘as generous a compensation package as possible’. Those who have completed less than a year in the organisation are expected to be given a severance package worth two-months of their Cost-to-Company (CTC) package. Those who have spent between one and three years could get three months of CTC package. Those with three years may also get an additional compensation of 45 days of salary, besides the three-month package. Those who have served for over five years will be eligible to get gratuity and other benefits.
Earlier this week, the CEO of CNN-IBN and IBN 7, N Dilip Venkatraman, resigned.
On July 29, The Hindu had reported the restructuring exercise underway in the group. Sources had then indicated that this was due to multiple factors – the shrinking of advertisements in a troubled economy; over-spending when the times were good, leading to a crunch now; the absence of new investment; and tough measures by the regulator strictly enforcing rules like having only 12 minutes of ad-per hour. Earlier this week, Mint reported that two consulting firms – Ernst and Young, and Mercer – had advised the group on its restructuring, and suggested that it was being ‘engineered’ by Reliance Industries Limited, which has indirect financial control over the group.
In an earlier story on July 22, The Hindu had also reported on the increasing emphasis on an ‘integrated newsroom’, where journalists were expected to report on issues across media platforms, languages, themes and in real-time for websites. A senior Network 18 source confirmed that their downsizing exercise was a part of creating ‘integrated newsrooms’, and ‘greater synergy’. “Those who are bilingual have greater survival prospects. But this is unfair because when people were joining, they were not told they needed to possess these additional skills,” said a source.
Employees said that the mood in the office has been ‘toxic and depressing’ over the past few weeks, with their fates hanging in balance. In the words of one staffer, “Either way, we will know the results of the process, which has been out and out driven by owners and managers, on Friday.”
Insiders said it was ‘almost certain’ that contracts of over 150 employees in IBN 7, and over 200 employees in CNN-IBN, would be terminated.