Barkha Dutt
Barkha Dutt | @BarkhaDutt/Facebook
Text Size:

New Delhi: There is turmoil in the six-month-old English news channel Tiranga TV, promoted by Congressman Kapil Sibal and his wife, with employees alleging that they are being unceremoniously sacked in large groups even as the management insists that it is part of a restructuring and that there are no plans to shut the channel down.

The discontent had been brewing for weeks with the fired employees holding protests at Sibal’s residence in New Delhi on 3 July, and in the office Monday. Amid murmurs in the last few weeks that Tiranga TV may shut shop, a series of tweets by senior journalist Barkha Dutt Monday brought the matter out in the open.

ThePrint reached out to Kapil Sibal through calls and an email and is awaiting his response. This report will be updated as and when he responds.

Barkha Dutt alleged that over 200 employees had been sacked, blaming Sibal and his wife for the situation, adding that when the staff had joined the channel, they were assured of a “professionally run newsroom and a minimum tenure of two years”.

She also accused Sibal’s wife, Promila Sibal, of making disparaging remarks against journalists.

 

By evening, she tweeted that bouncers had been sent to the Tiranga TV office where employees are protesting, demanding a three-month payout.

 

Talking to ThePrint, Dutt said she brought the matter into the public domain to ensure that public pressure will bring a certain answerability from the top management and secure the rights of the employees.

“It was not possible to fight it only legally as the management has all the tricks and resources in place,” she said. “I have also been threatened with defamation. The employees are also intimidated.”

Dutt also said Kapil Sibal and his wife even refused to honour her contract after she sent them emails over the last month raising the issue of non-payment of a proper exit package to employees, and the way they were being treated. According to Dutt, her contract terms require the Sibals to pay her a full year’s salary even if they shut down the channel or terminate the contract.

“For raising the issue of staff rights, I’ve been threatened with defamation and accused of insubordination which of course is a farcical trick of intimidation. My interest is the 200 employees. I am hoping public pressure ensures three months’ payout to staff. For myself, if they continue to decline payment using legal chicanery, of course I will take all legal action necessary,” she told ThePrint.

Sackings galore

Tiranga TV insiders told ThePrint that in the last few weeks, the channel had sacked several employees, including senior journalists, and closed down at least six bureaus.

“Over the last one month, the management has been sacking people in batches,” a channel insider told ThePrint. “Today, after the vertical heads met the management, they were told that the cheques are being prepared and everyone will be asked to leave with the salary of a month.”

The employees say that they have been told in clear terms that most of them will be asked to leave in the next two days but have not been offered clarification on if the channel will also go off the air.

“We haven’t been told if the channel is closing down, but with all employees gone and no fresh programmes being shot, how are they going to run?” the source quoted above said.

“It is clear that the channel would not be functioning as they would not have the staff required to run it, but it seems that it will not go off air anytime soon and will continue to run with pre-recorded news bulletins just to retain the licence,” another source within the channel told ThePrint.

The channel was not registered with the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).

Another journalist at the channel, Anubhuti Gaur, said in a tweet that the employees of the channel are aghast that the channel is shutting down, and only one month of severance pay is being offered.

“This is to inform you that from now on we’ll be sitting here in the newsroom until u meet us & enhance the severance pay to 3 months (sic),” she tweeted.

It is understood that the media venture is not in sound financial health, with investments drying up.

Not shutting down: Veecon president

The channel top management, however, insists that it is not being shut down.

Talking to ThePrint, president of Veecon Media and Broadcasting Deepak Choudhry said the sackings were part of a restructuring. He claimed that while Veecon owns Tiranga TV, it has a contract in terms of sharing digital content and revenue with Analog Media Private Limited. According to zaubacorp.com, Promila Sibal is one of the directors at Analog.

Choudhry claimed that Veecon has around 70 employees while Analog had hired around 200 employees and blamed Analog for the sackings. Dutt’s contract was with Analog, he said.

“Tiranga TV belongs to Veecon. The channel will never shut,” Choudhry said. “As part of the restructuring, some employees might have been parted ways with Analog but no contract has been violated. The employees must take legal recourse if the terms of the contract have not been honoured.”

Asked if Tiranga TV is continuing with new shows, he said, “As of now, Analog is providing us with all content. If they don’t, we will look for a solution.”

Tiranga TV began as HTN news and was launched in January this year with an eye on the elections to “bring out balanced news”. It is operating on an old licence procured from the ministry by Veecon Media & Broadcasting in 2011.


Also read: AI-enabled journalism will still have jobs, but not the same ones


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism

9 Comments Share Your Views

9 COMMENTS

  1. Someone was suggesting here that they should be paid their dues based on the number of years of service. The TV came online in Jan 2019 and were ready to shut the shop post May 23, when it was clear Gatbhandan is not going to work. The stated investor also ran away after seeing Modi in power again. When channel is created for hate campaign and Barkha should be fully aware of the risk involved. Now how many days salary to be paid for 6 months work is anybody’s guess. They will not get a penny more than one month, when there is no money to run the channel. Barkha expecting one year pay is unethical, at the cost of many employees who were drawing far lower than her multi crore salary.

  2. This is delicious. Since, Barkha Dutt has so much sympathy for the employees and she is already quite rich, she should pitch in to pay for their salaries. Instead, she wants to paid in full for the entire year and has contract that mandates it. Remember that India’s left and their surrogate judges destroyed the rule of law over the last 50 years and contract law has become a joke with the delays that are now inherent in our court system. It is delicious to see the left wing journalists fight with left wing politicians, one of whom is a Supreme Court lawyer. Let the fight spill into the courts and they can get what’s due to them in 25 years.

  3. Nothing less can be expected from a conman like Sibal. Sibal belongs to the glorious Congress tradition of one scam per day. When not doing scams, he is representing terrorists, Maoists and international gangsters and drug traffickers in court against India. His charge is Rs 20 Lacs for a ten minute court appearance.!!!! He earns more than Rs 1 Crore per day!!!!. This Congressman knows the dark secrets of most of the terrorists and dreaded gangsters of India as he has represented them in court. Now he has opened Tiranga TV, one among multiple businesses he owns. He has a habit of firing employees, without ANY payment. He uses his legal clout to intimidate and scare employees. This is the man so close to Sonia Gandhi that she calls him whenever there is a problem. This man should be in jail. Instead he hobnobs with Supreme Court judges and the powers that be of India’s corrupt industrialists and politicians.

  4. Bouncers for intimidating press I wonder what the headline today would have been if some BJP member had done that the problems with this liberal media is that to hide their corrupt practices they needed Congress at power and whole of Indian public knows this shame on such sort of journalism

  5. It’s clear, the channel was started for vilification of NaMo and BJP. We all know before the elections what was happened in UK to tarnish BJP and NaMo. Anyway the employees whether they are at low or higher position joined Tiranga after quitting the job in hand with a view to improve their career. After removing from Tiranga, all on a sudden they are not going to get any placements in their field. Therefore, they should not be pushed into poverty and stress. They should be given at least six months severance package or they should be placed in their profile in media .

  6. High time to think on. The employees, with flesh and blood, cannot be treated as use and throw material.

    In this growing instability and grim employment market, if an organisation issues pink slip because of its closing down/unsustainability, the employees should be compensated fair due than the regular one-month notice.

    For any employee who has been employed for a year, should be paid 3 months CTC, employed for 1-6 years be paid 6 months CTC, 7-10 years – a month for every completed year and above 10 years should be compensated in lines with VRS.

  7. Post 2014, a number of media outlets like The Wire, Tiranga TV, The Print etc came up with the sole intention of vilification of Shri Narendra Modi and BJP. As promised regime change did not happen in 2019, their financial backers have naturally decided to cut their losses and stop throwing good money after bad. What is surprising that an astute political journalist like Barkha Dutt did not see through the business practices of Shri Kapil Sibal. It is possible that intense hatred of Shri Narendra Modi clouded her judgement and made her bedfellows of the likes of the Sibals.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here