Times of India's editorial forgets that it's in the advertising business

Times of India wrote an editorial that described an "existential threat" to the newspaper industry: huge labour costs because of the Majitya Wage Board recommendations. It cited rising manpower costs across newspapers including The Hindu 1, Press Trust of India 2 and "one of the most profitable publicly-listed national newspaper groups" that went unnamed. On the strength of this, it asked for GST exemptions for newspapers, redrafting of the wage board's regulations and increase in government advertising rates.

First, from anecdotal information that I've heard from various journalists, Times of India does not follow wage board recommendations. 'Fresher' journalists are hired on contract and tend to be paid something like 20,000 a month. Senior journalists and editors are paid way higher than the figures recommended by the wage board.

Second, The Delhi Union of Journalists wrote a rebuttal in CounterCurrents and I'll quote the best part below:

[W]e also have reasons to doubt if the increase in manpower costs – assuming it is accurately calculated – has anything to do with the basic mission of the newspaper ...

From a document extracted from the public record, we know that BCCL incurred salary and wage costs of Rs. 551 crore in 2010-11, on “operating revenue” of almost Rs.4,500 crore and “other income” of about Rs. 300 crore. Manpower costs in other words, amounted to just over 11 percent of total revenue for the company.

Breaking down the “manpower cost” component reveals that Rs. 102 crore out of the total, i.e., close to 20 percent, is absorbed in remunerations to just 40 employees. This list of 40 includes only four whose function could be identified as journalism.

I hope you found that as funny as I did.

Third, why lose the opportunity to remember Vineet Jain's seminal meditation on the TOI vision as quoted by the New Yorker: “We are not in the newspaper business, we are in the advertising business."

  1. Described as "venerable".

  2. 173% rise in manpower costs in one year is ridiculous though. Needs to be looked into.