Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) has expressed serious concern at the helpless working condition of most of the media persons, precisely the private television journalists, based in Assam and urged the State chief minister Tarun Gogoi to look into the matter. The Assam based scribes body argues that nearly 80% working journalists of the State have to work with pitiable salaries, unlimited working hours without even a break in need and without any insurance facilities.
The JFA pointed out that the working journalists, engaged with the satellite news channels of Assam have to perform their duties in a vulnerable atmosphere with lower wages, more than 8 hours working period in a day, without appropriate leave days & off-days, and with no facility of life & health insurance coverage.
Whenever the demand for higher financial packages for the privately-owned television channel employees, including the working journalists is put forward, the owners argue that they are running a loss-making business. One important aspect, the owners always raise here, is that they have to pay a huge amount of money to the cable operators across Assam & northeast India for facilitating the distribution of their channels. According to them, the satellite news channel managements have to pay nearly Indian rupees 2 crores (around 3,00,000 USD) to the cable operators every year for their service.
“But the issue that arises here is that the cable operators of the region also slam a monthly charge of rupees 200 to 300 per subscriber against the facility. So the cable operators are collecting money from both the parties namely the Guwahati based private news channel managements and millions of subscriber families of the region,” stated in a release issued by JFA president Rupam Barua and secretary Nava Thakuria.
The JFA argues that if the cable operators collect money every month from the viewers, they should pay a portion of the amount to the channel owners, as like as the newspaper agents pay to the proprietors. However for any reason, if that is not workable, the cable operators should reduce the monthly charge for the cable subscribers. The cable operators may initiate for increasing the number of subscribers to the rural areas of the region too with an aim to enhance their business.
Assam with a population of over 30 million supports 26 morning dailies and seven privately owned satellite news channels with few cable & entertainment channels. These channels beam news and other programs in various languages, primarily in Assamese with English, Hindi, Bengali and various regional languages to virtually cater the need of nearly 60 million populace of the alienated region in India.
In regards to the Direct To Home (from the satellite) arrangements across the country, the channel owners make an allegation that they have to pay over 2 crore Indian rupees for the entry into the space. Moreover, the DTH arrangers always select a particular channel with the purpose of profit only, irrespective of their commitment to the community and the nation.
“Hence we raise the demand for a specially designed DTH service in India, where every channel, recognized by the Indian Union government, should be available. Leaving aside the free-to-air channels, the payment for all the paid-for channels can be availed from the subscribers across the country,” added the JFA statement.
It also pointed out that the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting may also think of developing the DD Direct (managed by the government-owned India’s largest public service broadcaster Prasar Bharti), so that it can distribute all registered channels of the country and selected foreign television channels on demand with monthly charges wherever applicable.
The JFA strongly argues that the newly defined system should help the subscribers to get the ‘freedom to select a bunch of channels’ of their choice with or without regular payments. Moreover the money from the viewers should directly go to the channel owners in a way that they can be more dependants on the viewers for survival and certainly not on the advertisers all the time. Such an ideal situation would also help promoting a healthy and responsible news channel with all commitments to its valued audiences.
The scribes body has finally appealed to the State chief minister to take personal initiative for facilitating a minimum starting salary of rupees 15,000 for the electronic media persons, engaged with the satellite news channels of Assam, with a daily working period of 8 hours or less, and a dignified leave arrangement. It also stated that all the employees working in newspaper or news channels should get the facilities of PF, ESI according to the Labour Act and also a health & life insurance coverage without discrimination.