Alleging harassment by various worker associations regarding payment issues, a TV producers' association called the Core Committee Film Producers' Bodies (CCFPB) directed its members to stall their TV shoots. With the boycotting of shootings taking place, the real loser is the avid TV watcher who is now being subjected to repeat telecast of the old episodes. This issue seems to be snowballing into a bigger battle, what with both parties (Producers and Worker Unions) refusing to change their stance. Today the situation is such that for each passing day the TV industry is losing revenue worth Rs. 300 crore.
But is this boycotting justified?
"Yes of course it is." says Mukesh Bhatt, Chairman of the CCFPB. "We no longer want to fall prey to these unions' arm twisting tactics."
Dinesh Chaturvedi, General Secretary, Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) however states, "Bhatt's call has not got any serious takers. We can give you a list of producers who are not binding themselves to the boycott call. Actress turned producer, Smriti Irani was present at their meeting but even she is not abiding by their call."
Bhatt rubbishing Chaturvedi's claims states, "They are spreading false claims! We have clearly instructed all our producer members to co-operate with the decision. They have been warned that if they don't follow instructions then they will be liable for strict disciplinary action by us."
TV industry insiders however feel differently
They have said, "Not all producers can afford this stand off beyond a week now. Most of them are producing daily soaps and the channels are pressurizing them to begin shooting. The channels are facing flak for showing repeat episodes of their serials as new episodes are not being shot."
It can be recollected that a few weeks back, 22 various workers unions had unanimously gone on a three day strike complaining of non-payments by producers and not honouring the MOU deal of 15% wage hike every year.
TV producers are alleging that they are willing to compromise and find a solution but they are discouraged by the involvements of unions who are trying to play messiah to the workers. "They come on the sets threatening us with a, hike wages or face the strike attitude. Which I feel is simply ridiculous," says a producer of a top rated serial on Zee TV.
Mukesh Bhatt says, "Why should the TV producers pay the same hiked wages to their workers on par with their film industry counterparts? It just doesn't make any business sense. TV is a smaller medium any day compared to films."
But the FWICE secretary says, "The daily workers are being taken for a ride by the TV producers what with payments stalled for not just months but over a year now. No one is resorting to any threatening here. We are just demanding a fair pay structure."
With repeat telecasts of daily prime time soaps, the loyal fans are switching their attention to music and movie channels. "There has been a considerable rise in our TRPs in the last 5-6 days. To maintain this switch we are trying to up our content quality by showing popular films in this period," states an official from a movie channel, FILMY, owned by Sahara.
Music channels such as 9X Music, Music India and Channel V too have recorded increased TRPs since the strike has begun. The channels and the producers aren't realizing that if the strike continues like this then there would be a drastic change in the ad revenues as the advertisers would prefer movie channels over regular ones.
What are the Channels saying?
Star CEO, Uday Shankar feels that the channels are being victimized in this battle between the producers and worker unions. He also states at the same time, "I somewhere feel that the demands of the low rung workers are justified because despite giving regular increments to the producers they are not passing them on their workers."
But for a newly launched channel like COLORS the strike has come as a boon in disguise of sorts. Rajesh Kamat, CEO, COLORS says, "Many of our serials have recently begun garnering huge popularity. So now since the strike is on, we are showing the repeat telecast of the episodes which our new audience may have missed earlier. But at the same time we would wish that the strike ends as soon as this status quo is benefiting no one."
Sanjay Upadhyay, Sony Television Channel's programming head (Fiction), feels, "It is definitely begun to affect our channel's viewer ship as the producers are not delivering the episodes on time. If it continues like this it is bound to lead to a bigger problem ahead. " A Zee Channel top official however stated, "If the loyal viewer decides to turn his back on his favourite show then the producer will be in a bigger loss and so also the worker who will have no work as the show may just not exit."
So is there a solution?
A quick solution seems very unlikely as both the parties remain adamant on their stands. No one has any idea when the work will resume. Mukesh Bhatt says, "If they want to end the dead lock, then they should enter into a written agreement with us." While the worker unions' officials state, "They are doing all this tamasha to avoid implementing the MOU of 15% wage hike. How can they be trusted again?"
The channels feels they shall be the one's most hit. A channel top official tells us, "If the producers agree to the workers demands they will expect us to bear the burden which are just not ready in today's recession times. So its better that they discuss it out and arrive on a commonly benefiting solution otherwise it will spell doom for everyone."