(Published in Media Critique journal, issue July-September 2012)
In an interview after picking up a 27.5 per cent stake in the India Today Group recently, Kumar Mangalam Birla said that the “media sector is a sunrise sector from an investment point of view.” While the Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group was only explaining the rationale behind his recent investment, the boom in the media sector is not an unnoticed story.
Accordingly, the number of institutes that offer courses in journalism/mass communication/media is also increasing exponentially. In Delhi/NCR alone, there are at least 200 such institutes. Even if we go by conservative estimates, a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation would reveal that this region alone is churning out at least 6000 students every year, who dream of entering the media sector. Does the sector have enough jobs for them? At least 20 well-known newspapers and 15 prominent news TV channels have head offices/regional offices in the region. At a per organisation average of even 100 staff members in media-related departments, as distinct from departments like HR, Accounts, IT etc, total number of media-jobs in Delhi/NCR would amount to not more than a total of 4000. That implies a shortfall of at least 2000 jobs. These students are then left with no option but to use “jack”, as the back-door entry system is popularly known in Delhi, to enter the industry.
People change jobs and organisations hire and fire staff all the time in all sectors. Only, in most sectors one doesn’t get to know about these developments. But since media, as emphasised earlier, is a visible industry, it is at a particular disadvantage here. And yet it pays no heed to principles of transparency, such is the brazenness. Of late, most big media houses have floated their own media institutes where they charge hefty fees from students and, in return, promise to absorb them as interns and, subsequently, as staff. But all students in such institutes run by media houses too do not get this chance, primarily because of the mathematics explained above.
Public service broadcasters (PSBs) are not exactly holy cows in this regard. Several journalists who are at top positions in various TV channels and other media organisations today are known to have joined Doordarshan when particular governments were in power and moved out as soon as their benefactor government fell. Two years back, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) had quashed appointment of 25 news-anchors and reporters posted at Doordarshan News, saying that allocation of marks in the interview of the candidates was done in an arbitrary and malafide manner. However, PSBs are accountable to the public at the end of the day and corruption in their recruitments can be unearthed and exposed without too much difficulty. But private TV channels’ have no such accountability and, therefore, it is nearly impossible to detect such anomalies there.
The call recently given by the CPI, CPI(M), BJP and DMK to introduce a collegium system for the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and Comptroller and Auditor General has a lesson for this sector. The essential argument is that appointments to offices in whom public reposes its trust must evoke confidence among the people and must not be vulnerable to manipulation and partisanship. This must apply to journalists too since crores of common men and women repose their trust in what their favourite newspaper or favourite TV channel tells them every morning.
(Cross posted on http://chaipe.blogspot.in/2013/01/media-recruitments-need-for.html)