MUMBAI: Hindi general entertainment channels (GEC) have hurled the gauntlet back at the TV workers union - Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) - and TV producers associations.
Executives from seven broadcasting companies - Star, Zee, Sony, Sahara One, Viacom18 (Colors), INX Media (9X) and NDTV Imagine - have issued an ultimatum to the two parties to resolve their differences by 9 November, failing which they will stop commissioning any fresh episodes.
The broadcasters have been unanimous in their view that they cannot bear the increased cost that higher wages to TV workers and technicians have thrust upon producers.
The broadcasters have issued a joint statement responding to the FWICE last night. In the statement, they have stated that they were never part of disputes which relates to the terms and conditions at which producers engage cine workers for the shows.
The statement further adds that broadcasters have been paying producers handsomely, and they will have to absorb the increased costs. It further states that the the long term health of the industry depends on "our ability to work collectively to control our costs while continuing to bring the best entertainment content to our loyal audiences."
The broadcasters statement further elaborates that production disruptions are coming at a time when there is an "economic downtown" and "advertising is degrowing," without due notice or warning. "Unless the dispute is resolved immediately, it will threaten the very survival of the Hindi general entertainment category," the statement adds.
In their collective statement to to the FWICE, and the producers associations the broadcasters have asked:
- Both parties must resume normal production of ongoing programmes without any disruption so as to not cause any inconvenience to viewers and advertisers.
- Both parties must work constructively to resolve all their differences by 9 November.
The joint statement from broadcasters shows that they mean business. First, the unions banded together to get producers to meet their demands. The broadcasters have now got together in a show of unity and strength.
Now we have to wait and watch how the producers will respond. And the workers‘ unions. Will they come back to the table to renegotiate the terms they agreed to earlier? Or will they each stand their ground? And how long will the impasse continue?
On that will depend whether audiences will be able to watch the travails or adventures or heart breaks of their favourite characters on their favourite shows.
Broadcasters firm on not hiking programming costs
Broadcasters are feeling the pinch of the face-off between TV producers and the TV Workers Union.
Star Plus had to show re-runs of its two prime shows (Santan and Sangam) and three afternoon shows (Jahaan Pe Ho Baseera, Kumkum and Grihasti). Zee also had to show old episodes on its 7 pm, 10 pm and 10:30 pm band. 9X‘s Ruby and Jaa Mai Vaishno Devi had to do away with fresh episodes.
Star Plus GM Keertan Adyanthaya says, "The entire TV industry including the GECs have been hit by the economic turbulence. At a time when the economy is slowing down, we can‘t afford to hike the ad rates. We are, thus, not in a position to pay more to the TV producers."
Adds a senior executive of a recently launched channel on request of anonymity: “In the current global economic scenario, all broadcasters are having a tough time. If advertisers are shrinking budgets, how can we agree to pay more to producers? We are trying to curb costs. We can’t think of increasing our input costs.”
Certain marketing initiatives are also put on hold. Zee TV, for instance, has postponed the launch of its afternoon show Choti Bahu which was scheduled to air on 3 November.
Says Zee TV business head Tarun Mehra, "Though we have kept the advertisers informed, its a tough time for all broadcasters to run the channel without fresh content."
Film and TV Producers Guild and FWICE will meet on Monday to resolve the crisis. Says Producers Guild‘s Mukesh Bhatt, "We will be meeting on Monday to arrive at a possible solution."