Trained journalists being paid less than minimum wages have a hard time sticking to the profession

 Contrary to perceptions, the condition of media persons is far from rosy, reveals a recent survey by Media Studies Group (MSG). Faced with a situation where even trained journalists are unable to afford the minimum requirements of daily life, an alarming number of them are leaving the profession for better livelihood options. Even today, there are many who do not get minimum wages as per their qualifications and are not encouraged for their good work, rendering them dissatisfied with their jobs and job profiles.

These disturbing facts have come to light through a survey of journalists who passed out from media training institute Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) during the past fifteen years (1985-2010). Devashish Prasoon and Vijay Pratap of Delhi based media think-tank MSG conducted online interviews of these journalists to arrive at the results. 

The survey reveals a stunning fact that about one third of the journalists interviewed (33.63 per cent) was paid as low as Rs. 5000 as their first salaries. Around 70 per cent of them received below Rs. 10,000 as their initial salary. Some of the respondents said that they got only Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 3,000 as their first salary – less than the minimum prescribed wages. Neither did they get any identity card nor were they provided with any salary slip.

When asked about the current salary status, 36.79 per cent confessed that they were getting between Rs. 10,000 to 20,000.  Only 25.47 per cent are salaried at a higher wage category of Rs. 20,000 to Rs 35,000 and 10.38 per cent journalists are among the highest salary level, that is, Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 60,000. 

As many as 22 per cent of the journalists interviewed said they were not happy with their jobs. Around 53 per cent of the respondents said that they were somewhat satisfied with their jobs. Only 24.77 per cent said that they were fully happy with their work.

In search for better work opportunities, of the 111 media persons who responded, 14 media persons changed three jobs, 19 changed two jobs, 23 changed one job, 6 changed four jobs, 3 changed five jobs and 2 each changed six, seven and eight jobs. While 3 media persons claimed to have changed more than 10 jobs, 37 media persons were stagnant at their previous organizations.

Around 56.64 per cent journalists do not have a house of their own and live in rented houses. Around 31 per cent do have their own home but have inherited it from their parents. Only 6.19 per cent of the journalists could manage for themselves an MIG flat while 5.31 per cent owned HIG flat. Only 37.50 per cent of journalists have bought life insurance while 62.50 per cent do not have any life insurance policy. 

A majority of the journalists interviewed, around 55 per cent, do not have any vehicle. 16.24 per cent said they owned motorcycle and 7 per cent owned scooters. Only 22.2 per cent own a car. Meanwhile, 15 per cent of the respondents said they were being provided free ‘pick and drop’ service by their employers, while 0. 5 per cent were provided with a car on a permanent basis. 

As many as 57.55 per cent of the journalists interviewed said they were in the regular category, under the Working Journalists Act. It is well known that private companies neither follow nor provide employment as per the Act. So, most of the journalists are under the impression that since they are continuously working with an organization, they are regular in the profession. 

As many as 42.45 per cent journalists admitted that their job was contractual. Moreover, 14.16 per cent of the respondents were working with government organizations. 

70.15 per cent of the journalists interviewed were from upper castes, 17.91 per cent from other backward castes, 6.72 per cent from scheduled castes and 6.22 per cent from scheduled tribes. Among them 73.19 per cent were male respondents and 26.81 per cent female respondents.  Around 30 per cent respondents said that they were brought up in urban areas, 29.93 per cent came from towns and 19.71 per cent hailed from rural areas. A small fraction of 5.11 per cent respondents came from hilly areas. 

Most of them 60 per cent belonged to lower middle class, 29.85 per cent from upper middle class, 8.96 per cent from lower class and 1.49 per cent from upper class. Around 64.83 per cent respondents did their schooling in the Hindi medium, 28.28 per cent in English medium, 3.45 per cent in Oriya medium and 0.69 per cent in Telugu medium. But, currently 54.48 per cent respondents are working in Hindi and 40.30 per cent do their official work in English. 

“With a good number of degree or diploma holders in journalism,” says Anil Chamadia head, MSG, “it was important to know if the profession has really gained something worthwhile and if the journalists trained at one of the best media institutes are really enjoying the profession.” These findings will be published in Jan Media and Mass Media, Hindi and English journal of the MSG.

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