Effect of new labour laws on News Media Workforce

Experts from media, law, policy and academics discussed and analysed the new labour codes and their implications on the professionals of media industry in a national webinar organized by Delhi Metropolitan Education (DME) and Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID) on January 27.

The webinar was organised in the backdrop of the merger of the Working Journalists Acts in Wages and Service Condition in the overarching new Labour Codes and its implications.

The webinar in its 2 sessions – Keynote Session and the Expert-Speak Session – witnessed active participation of 15 experts from, Delhi, NCR and other places. Faculty members and students from Makhanlal Chaturvedi University of Journalism and Mass Communication, Bhopal, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, K R Mangalam University, Gurugram, Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, IMS Noida and Delhi Metropolitan Education joined the sessions in large numbers.

The webinar in its course brought forth various aspects of Labour Laws as the experts deliberated on the journey of Labour Codes in the Country. The discussion chartered the evolution from the Working Journalist Acts 1955/1957 to the New Labour Codes enacted in contemporary times.

Experts highlighted that the wages & working conditions of people employed in the news media has been a debated issue for long. Big media houses in general have never welcomed the setting up of wage boards by the government to fix wages since the 1950s. In all, there have been six wage boards, the last Wage Board also known as the Majithia Commission made suggestions on the need for extending social security measures to media persons. Its recommendations were not implemented by most of the organizations, despite the intervention of the Supreme Court.

Journalism is a highly technical job and requires people of varied skill sets. Employees are put on various independent grades from stringers to editors and there isn’t uniformity in this differentiation. Many journalists’ associations have criticized this practice and deemed it exploitation of the youth. Parliament that met during the Covid-19 times in its Monsoon session passed the three codes with a voice vote (One Code was passed in 2019), while the opposition had boycotted the session on the passing of the Farm laws.

The government has already put in the public domain rules and guidelines on all the four Codes viz. Industrial Relations, Wages, Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) and Social Security. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour had looped in all the major trade unions and many industry associations during it’s over two years’ work in preparation of the bill. It received many suggestions, some of which, it claims were incorporated in the final Bill.

The Keynote Session was be moderated by Prof. Jaishri Jethwaney. Keynote speakers included Mr Bhartuhari Mahtab, Member of Parliament and Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, Mr J S Majumdar, National Vice President of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and Prof K G Suresh, Vice Chancellor, Makhanlal Chaturvedi University of Journalism and Mass Communication, Bhopal.

Expert-Speak session was moderated by Prof Ambrish Saxena. The expert speakers included Dr Ambrish Saxena, Professor and Dean, DME Media School, Delhi Metropolitan Education, Mr Shishir Sinha, Senior Deputy Editor, Business Line, Mr N K Singh, Senior journalist, columnist and former General Secretary of Broadcast Editors’ Association, Mr Qamar Waheed Naqvi, Senior journalist and former Director, Aaj Tak news channel , Mr Sharat Pradhan, Senior journalist and political analyst, Prof Jaishri Jethwaney, Senior ICSSR Research Fellow, Studies in Industrial Development (ISID), Ms Sujata Madhok, General Secretary, Delhi Union of Journalists, Mr Jai Shankar Gupta, President, Press Association and Member of Press Council of India, Dr Anand Pradhan, Professor, Indian Institute of Mass Communication and Dr Surbhi Dahiya, Professor and Course Director, Department of English Journalism, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi.

Some of the key highlights of the webinar were the discussion on the grave realities of the army of stringers and how they are being called “Hobby Journalists.” The webinar also discussed unequal pay scales running in news organisations and the importance of the talent allowance. The webinar also brought forth the issues of social security faced by journalists and the issues of pending cases of the employees filed in courts against big corporate houses. A 360 degree view of news media workforce was discussed and deliberated.

The webinar further opened the scope of discussion on various issues vexing the media workforce today. The conveners of this grand webinar Prof. (Dr) Jaishri Jethwaney and Prof. (Dr) Ambrish Saxena created awareness and initiated a dialogue amongst different stakeholders by bringing them on a common platform. The co conveners were Prof. (Dr) Susmita Bala, Prof. Seema Goyal, Ms Krishna Pandey and Mr Ritwik Ghosh and the coordinators included Mr. B Dhanujai and Ms Mudita Raj.

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