Bad news dogs Mi Marathi journos: work without pay

MUMBAI: There's some amount of chaos reigning in the office of the 24 hour Marathi news channel Mi Marathi. With owner Mahesh Motewar - who acquired it from HDIL in 2012 - cooling his heels behind bars since December 2015, it’s bound to be.  A cash crunch has forced it to stop churning out original news programming and run archival content.

Moreover, on 20 March 2016, Mi Marathi’s senior managers called a meeting at which reporters and editors were informed that they would have work without pay until further notice.

A senior reporter present at the meeting told, "We were shocked when the announcement was made. We were asked to raise our hands if we were okay to work without being paid. Only three hands went up."

Another senior official informed us on condition of anonymity, "The salaries have been delayed for a long time now. Three days back all the staff got their January pay, while their emoluments for February are still due. There is a crisis at our parent company, but the irony is revenue wise we are doing good. ABP and Zee are the only ones above us. I just hope the company can resolve its issues soon or it may be on course to shut down."

Another senior journo disclosed that he has been calling his friends in other news channels and newspapers to hire some of the mid and junior level reporters from Mi Marathi. He further clarified:  “A large chunk of the employees has already moved on. The way it is functioning; I don't see the channel running for long. We senior guys get the salary last. We ensure that the younger reporters and editors get their wages first as they are the one’s most needing them."

However, Mi Marathi managing editor Tulsidas Bhoite was pretty emphatic that the channel would continue and there was no question of shuttering it. "Yes there are certain issues but there is no shutting down. Yes we have stopped our bulletins but that is because of some technical issues,” he said. “The reporters are there and we will  resume our original programming again in a week or two."

Observers say it will require a miracle of sorts to turn things around. Motewar is reportedly currently lodged in Yerwada jail after being found guilty of allegedly defrauding investors through a chit-fund scam under Prosperity Agro or Samruddha Jeevan. Motewar is allegedly politically well connected hence his broadcast venture could find a white knight.

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