Media houses or forced labour camps

Why the media houses are not paying salaries to journalists?

It has become a norm in Pakistan that media houses delayed the salaries of journalists and other employees for months. The journalists are forced to work for months without salaries. The owners of the media houses blame the government for this situation. While government accuses the media house owners for delay. The journalists and other staff working in the media houses are suffering in this blame game.

Even the media house like Jang/The News/Geo is delaying salaries for couple of months. It never happened before.  The media house like Nawaiwaqt has not paid the salaries for last 11 months. The media houses have been converted into forced labour camps.

The stressful media workers are losing their lives after shown doors and not being paid for months. They can’t pay school fees of their children- house rents and utility bills. They worked long hours every day but still borrowed money from family members and friends to meet the expenses.
Despite the financial crisis- the owners of the media houses are continue to enjoy their lavish and luxurious life styles. The top executives continue to receive hefty salaries. The media houses on the one hand making retrenchments of low paid jobs but at the same time hiring expensively paid anchors.
The media houses on the one hand claims that they are facing financial crisis due to the non-payment of government dues of official ads. Owners of the media groups have pointed fingers at the new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan for some of their troubles. 

A big share of the advertisement revenue, by some estimates as much as half for few channels, comes from the government and its departments. There has been a substantial decrease in that revenue.
On the other hand-the government is accusing the media houses for their flawed business model. PTI government has made cut on the advertisement budget.  PTI government reduced the government ads. PTI government is using the government ads as a tool to change the editorial policy of different news media groups. The Dawn and Jang/Geo group are facing government hostility.

So the media houses are facing the financial crunch. But axe is falling on the lower paid reporters- sub-editors and cameramen. They are losing jobs and waiting months for the salaries. The crisis has intensified in last one year as government showed no sympathy with media industry. 

Pakistani media saw rapid growth from 2002 to 2017.  From only one state-run channel two decades ago, the country's media landscape has completely changed with more than 80 channels now offering 24/7 news and entertainment shows.  
Besides established media houses such as Jang Group and Dawn which started from a newspaper business  before diversifying into television journalism and becoming a broadcast behemoth, new entrants also jumped into the fast growing media industry. 

People who were in the business of selling edible oil and running bakeries have opened up news channels. They didn’t think about their business model. They wanted media influence to safeguard other commercial interests. But as news and entertainment channels flourished, new jobs were created for journalists, actors, technicians, graphic designers and video editors. 

That boom was one of the positive outcomes of the country's growing economy, as big corporate houses and multinationals began to spend large sums on newspaper and television advertisements. Now the country is facing hard times. 
Corporate advertising spend has decreased by 25 percent in the third quarter (July-September) this year. And there is no indication of it getting any better.
Multinationals — the biggest advertisers — earn in rupees and repatriate profits to their head offices in dollars. The disparity in the exchange rate means they are cutting back on the most dispensable expense — advertisements. The total advertising spending in Pakistan that includes newspapers, websites and the channels stands at approximately $670 million.
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The evening talk shows have become a key source of income for media companies. The primetime shows drive high viewer ratings, an essential indicator to determine the price-tags for advertisements. 
The race to land the best host has bloated salaries of anchors to as much as $37,000 a month. That’s manifold compared to $350 a month that many reporters and cameraman make. 

It is worth noting that the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) have strongly condemned the ‘wage theft’ epidemic led by media companies and calls on Pakistan’s government to review the industry and ensure all outstanding salaries are paid immediately.
Analysts believe that “the practice of delaying salary payments has become increasingly common in Pakistan with some of the worst offending media companies delaying payments by as much as ten months, despite journalists continuing to work and provide professional services. The term “death by stress” is now well-known”.
Moreover, The IFJ and PFUJ have documented more and more cases of the extreme repercussions of non-payment of wages on media workers in the country in the past year.
                                                          Khalid Bhatti 

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