Coronavirus’s Media Bloodbath: The Quint Puts 45 Employees On Non-Paid Leave, TOI Fires Entire Sunday Magazine Team

Thus far, hospitality companies had already started laying off people as a result of the coronavirus lockdown — Treebo had offered voluntary resignations to 400 employees, and Oyo has put an unspecified number of international employees on furloughs. The layoffs relating to the coronavirus now seem to have extended to the Indian digital media industry. Here are the Indian media companies that have laid off workers citing the coronavirus lockdown.

1.The Quint

The Quint has put 45 of its employees on unpaid leaves citing the coronavirus. They include reporters, copy editors, a bureau chief, production staff, and the entire technology team. The decision was conveyed to them by their respective heads of department starting Sunday evening. The Quint had an overall staff of 200 before these layoffs.  “Over the next few weeks whether India will fare poorly in the face of COVID-19, or miraculously survive, no one can say right now,” management said in an email to employees. “Second, the scale of shutdown and lockdown that #CoronaPandemic has prompted, puts us all in the eye of an economic storm. That is the unprecedented double whammy. We’ve never seen a world where consumer spending is down by over 50%, where wealth and asset values built over years, have been ravaged in a matter of days. We simply have no idea where this could end.”

“In these circumstances, it is clear that our revenues will be under severe strain over the next 3-4 months, at least. During this time, The Quint’s primary objectives should be – a. For everybody to stay healthy. b. For our young operation to survive this period and live to fight another day. That can happen if we take emergency actions, measures only used in the ‘rarest of rare’ situations, measures that may constrain us all, but may also help us stay afloat at a time like this,” it added. The affected employees will be paid half their salaries for the month of April, and the unpaid leave will start from April 15. The Quint has closed down the auto and technology sections on its website.

2. Times of India’s Sunday Magazine team

The Times of India has laid off its entire Sunday Magazine team — including nine employees from the Times of India, six of Times Life and three from Speaking Tree. “The entire team of Sunday magazine of Times of India asked to leave. Got a call from my boss Poonam Singh. Sacked after 24 years from a company I served with love for more than two decades. Wow,” wrote an employee.

3. Indian Express

Indian Express cut salaries across the board to deal with the coronavirus. Indian Express’ leadership took a 100% pay cut, and instituted different levels of pay cuts for employees on different pay scales. Those earning below Rs 5 lakh would not see any change, between Rs 5 and Rs 7.5 lakh would see a 10% cut, between Rs 7.5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh would see a 15% pay cut, Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh would see 20% cut, Rs 20 lakh to Rs 35 lakh would see a 25% pay cut, and those earning above would see a 30% pay cut. 

“Nothing will make me happier than to propose to you to withdraw this salary cut, the moment we turn the corner but what worries me is that if the situation continues this proposed reduction in salary will also not be enough for us to see through this crisis,” CEO George Varghese said in an email, but also stated that employees will have to make more sacrifices if things don’t improve. 

4. Business Standard

Business Standard said it would cut pay for those earning more than Rs. 10 lakh from 10th May onwards. 

5. Outlook

Outlook Magazine has ceased publication of its print edition. “Lockdowns and curfews — important and necessary measures to stop the extremely contagious virus jumping from person to person — mean we cannot distribute the print version of your magazine,” Banerjee wrote in a post on the Outlook website. 

6. News Nation

Hindi news channel News Nation fired its entire English digital team, which comprised of 15 people. They were not given termination notice or allowed to serve their notice period, the sacked staffers alleged.

It’s not hard to understand why news publications are firing people amidst the coronavirus crisis — news organizations depend on advertisers for revenue, and with the economy having ground to a halt because of the shutdown, companies are conserving their cash, and this has meant lower marketing budgets. This in turn has depressed revenue for news publications, which are in turn cutting costs to stay afloat. And this was the impact on media companies just after 21 days of the lockdown — with the lockdown now having been extended for another 19 days, there’s no telling what the media industry will look like when the coronavirus pandemic has finally passed.

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