NDTV restructures biz & newsroom amidst reports of layoffs

NEW DELHI: Buffeted by allegations of tax evasion and money laundering, which are being contested in appeal tribunals, one of India’s first private sector TV news organization NDTV has said it is reorganizing newsroom set-up and resources available to adapt to changing technologies like MoJo or mobile journalism.

Stating that the restructuring was “not just about cost-cutting”, the Prannoy Roy-family promoted NDTV in a statement on Monday said, “Like other news broadcasters around the world, NDTV is reorganizing its newsroom and resources to focus on mobile journalism. NDTV has always been an early adapter of new technology and we are the first major network in India whose reporters are all trained in using mobile phones to shoot stories.”

The statement comes amidst media reports that NDTV has handed pink slips to about 70 staffers, comprising mostly technical personnel and camerapersons. Outlook magazine, quoting unnamed sources, in a report on its website said on Monday that the number of “retrenched staff is likely to be between 60 and 70 of which around 35 camerapersons have been made redundant with the introduction of high-grade smartphones”.

It must be clarified here that could not independently verify or confirm the news on staff being laid off at NDTV.

However, NDTV’s official statement, also given to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), on Monday dropped ample hints about retrenchment of staffers owing to funds crunch.

“This (the restructuring of business and newsroom ops to rely on MoJo) is not just about cost-cutting, though that is certainly, for us, like any other responsible business, an important factor in operations. Mobile journalism means reports are lightning-quick and much more efficiently produced, a priority for any news company,” NDTV said.

Pointing out it would be “irresponsible” to viewers and shareholders, apart from being “archaic” to maintain decades-old templates of how to shoot and edit, NDTV defended itself on collateral damages of restructuring.

“NDTV has long been valued for its commitment to its employees -- our record on attrition across more than 20 years is testament to this and spoken of across the industry. We have ensured fair compensation for those employees affected by our restructuring,” the company stressed.

Dwelling on the need to revamp, NDTV clarified like all businesses, broadcasting models too change and evolve and, hence, the “need to restructure” and keep pace with the digital world of journalism.

What does MoJo mean? Live camera crews for coverage of finance minister Arun Jaitley’s briefing at Delhi’s Press Information Bureau, for example, have been replaced by a single reporter. The reporter doubles up as a journalist and cameraperson using high-end mobile phones and modern mobile networks to connect with the studio via Skype and other such similar services to cover the event or do a PTC (piece to camera, a TV jargon to explain when a TV news journalist comes on camera to report an event and answer queries from the studio).

The news of retrenchment and business restructuring comes close on the heel of news that a tax tribunal had, reportedly, upheld claims made by the tax department on taxes not paid by NDTV, which has, however, contested the claims saying it was witch-hunt unleashed by the Modi government for standing up to media arm-twisting.

“The court cases (relating to tax evasion) that are an attempt to punish NDTV for its award-winning objective journalism do not influence how we run and operate our newsroom. The emphasis on restructuring is rooted in the broader financial climate, our commitment to controlling costs and, most importantly, our move to consolidate on our core business, quality news content,” the statement said.


Tribunal upholds tax demand, NDTV intends to challenge order

NDTV gets slapped with higher tax dues notice

NDTV issues response to govt charges

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