Panic in TV industry as strike halts shoots

November 12th, 2008 - 4:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Nov 12 (IANS) There’s panic among television channels and actors as the shooting of most programmes has come to a grinding halt due to the strike by cine workers.”It’s a deadlock. It’s unfortunate that we had to reach this crisis point. Our audience, especially for “Balika Vadhu” is going to be deeply disappointed. So we’re going to do catch-ups of ‘Balika Vadhu’ for those who came in late and hadn’t seen the show from the start,” Rajesh Kamat, CEO of TV entertainment channel Colors, told IANS.

“We came in with a rating of 1. Today we’re at 8. So a lot of viewers would want to watch our earlier episodes. But we’re hoping that the strike will be over soon. The deadlock isn’t helping anyone,” Kamat added.

The strike has hit all shows, except Colors’ “Big Boss”.

“They made an exception primarily due to the nature of the show. We can’t tell the housemates to go back home and come back when the show is over. Broadcasters have been kind to ‘Bigg Boss’. Very honestly we don’t know how long this strike will last,” added Kamat.

The film-television producers and the cine workers’ apex body, the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), are at loggerheads over the wages of the workers.

Negotiations have been on for some time. The producers conceded the FWICE’s demand and now producers want to pass on the liabilities to the broadcasters.

“As far as I know, all producers have been getting a systematic raise for providing software. Broacasters have been under pressure to provide incentives to producers. And we’ve been raising their remuneration regularly. But producers don’t pass on their increments and perks to their workers. So then why are they expecting us broadcasters to absorb their liability? After all we can’t pass on our liabilities to our advertisers,” said Uday Shankar, CEO of the STAR India group.

The strike comes at a time when the television industry isn’t making much money.

“Frankly, it’s a more critical situation than all of us are ready to admit. At a time when there’s an economic recession, TV channels are undergoing a serious revenue crunch and broadcasting costs have escalated dramatically, suddenly for a group of people to come in and demand a hike that would mean added costs of about 35-40 percent, is impossible,” Shankar said.

“We’ve also heard that TV actors are planning to get together to ask for a hike, also equipment vendors - so where does this end?”

Kavita Barjatya, who handles the television arm of Rajshri Productions, said: “This is a no-win situation for all broadcasters, producers and workers. The matter should be resolved without losing any time.”

Producer Shristhi Arya of Rose Movies added: “We aren’t really allowed to speak. But this impasse is really unfortunate. No one is benefiting from it. It spells only losses. And the sooner the problem is solved the better. All I can say is producers aren’t all a uniform body of software producers. Everyone has a separate motivation.”

This crisis is not only affecting channels, but actors too.

Hiten Tejwani said: “As far as the worker’ wages are concerned, the channels and producers should resolve the matter soon. The strike is okay for a couple of days, but beyond that will mean huge losses for all of us. My entire life depends on television. So I’m very affected.

Added Kushal Punjabi: “The strike isn’t justified at all. It has affected me personally because I’ve been asked to leave the STAR Plus show which I’ve been doing for 10 months. I think the people responsible for the strike should sit together and solve the crisis before it deepens.”

However, Mukesh Bhatt, who is mediating between the television workers and the producers-broadcasters, feels there’s too much pay disparity between the grassroots and the top levels of the television industry.

“It’s time to let the top layer of the TV industry take the rap. I don’t think the workers are wrong in asking for wages on a par with what their colleagues in the film industry. Broadcasters should cut down on the cost of making every episode. Pay every star less remuneration, if you have to.

“When will the TV industry realise that the star of the serials are the writers, just like the stars of the movies are the directors? Look at what Colors have done with ‘Balika Vadhu’. Who’s the star of the show? The solution for broadcasters is to sit down with workers and listen to their demands.”

Uday Shankar says that some of the federation’s demands are reasonable.

“So if we focus on them, we can find a solution. As for higher wages they’re possible only when the economic situation improves. Funnily, it’s the ordinary wage earner who are being hurt along with broadcasters and viewers. We can’t run a blank screen. So for now, repeats. Luckily, we’ve our archives. But what about the new channels?”

Meanwhile viewers will have to go a process of prolonged deja vu.

“Viewers sit down to watch fresh episodes. Not re-runs. What can we do? We can’t give viewers new episodes at the moment because we can’t afford them.”

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