Kolkata: What will be the job industry look like post-COVID-19? Will the companies hire us? What is our future headed to? Are we standing on a thin line? Will the industry show a little amount of mercy to us who are graduating this year?
These are the barrage questions that have been doing the rounds on the back of every student’s mind nowadays — especially in the media industry, more so after seeing some of the big names losing their jobs recently, thanks to the rut created by COVID-19 pandemic.
With exams and results being delayed, students are tense about their careers. Final year students of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC), pan India are anxious about their future, the uncertainties that loom over job vacancies once the dust settles. The media outlets can’t be solely blamed either.
With the whole nation under house arrest since the COVID-19 outbreak mid-March, the companies are having a tough time shelling out salaries to their employees without any revenue generation.
As a result, several media biggies had to terminate a whole lot of employees who have been the pillars of the organisations for many years. Few biggies even resorted to shutting down editions. The first blow came back in April when The Times of India (TOI) sacked its entire Sunday Magazine team. Hindustan Times quickly followed suit by handing over pink slips to more than 100 staffers across the country including some top-level journalists with an aim to reduce to 27 per cent of total staff. Kolkata’s media giant The Telegraph has also decided to shut shop in Jharkhand and North East.
However, things look slightly stable in the broadcasting section as most of the outlets have forced pay-cuts on employees in place, although TV Today Network opted to cease operations and transmission of Delhi AajTak from June 30. There is just the tip of the iceberg, there are many on the anvil.
“Our opportunities have been cut short. There is no chance that we will be getting many options in the future,” Sayantan Sengupta, a final year MA JMC student from Jadavpur University told The Lateralz.
“Being a fresher, after completing studies, a job in a big brand is quite unbelievable as they don’t prefer hiring inexperienced employees. The only option left for us was the small media organisations, but they too are shutting shops as there is no revenue and advertisement scopes have narrowed. A company cannot be run in losses.”
ALSO READ: UPSC releases revised calendar for 2020
“We are media students and we expect our future in media industries only. A close friend of mine has lost his job during this lockdown who was with television channel from 2017. He has been fired with an excuse, ‘we need someone much more experienced than you’. I hope the situation recovers fast and media houses start getting revenues but that is quite impossible as the capital of the state is going through a very poor phase,” Sengupta rued.
Malyaban Chattoraj, a final year MA student from Rabindranath Bharati University, of the same stream as Sengupta, echoed a similar sentiment. “I’m a media student and this is my preferred field. If the current situation prevails then I can only say that the future looks very grim in the media sector for me,” he said.
However, Raina Banerjee, another final year student from Women’s College, Calcutta feels that companies shouldn’t sack employees instead apply pay cuts. “Pay cut is a better option than termination. I know media houses are also running through a crisis as they do not have proper revenues and advertisements but they should also think about the employees. How will they run family if fired from jobs? That is their only means of income,” said Banerjee, who has completed her graduation from Maharaja Manindra Chandra College.
Meanwhile, individuals like Banerjee and others are hopeful that situations will be better in the future once things normalise. “In this situation, everyone is telling me I won’t be getting a proper job, salary will be less than expected, but I personally think that there will be no crisis for jobs in the future,” added Banerjee. “The demand for news, news portals will never die and I think the media industry will slowly crawl back to normalcy but it will take time.”
“Finding a job, in such a situation, especially with a reasonable salary will be difficult. Simultaneously, it is also to be kept in mind that revival is possible, though it might take a few years. When things start getting better, more scopes will open up, fingers crossed,” said a 21-year-old Subhra Parna Deb, who is in her final year of graduation in Shri Shikshayatan College, and plans to pursue a Masters degree in print journalism.
However, they may opt for a change in tracks and adopt Plan B, if things don’t work out for them in the media industry. “I have a family to look after. I cannot put all my eggs in one basket. I have to keep my options open,” Chattoraj, a resident of south Kolkata said.
“After the pandemic ends, I will give one year to get a proper job in media but if I don’t succeed then I will prepare myself to clear NET (National Eligibility Test) and do Ph.D but promise to stick with the media industry,” stated Sengupta.
Panchali Chakraborty, a would-be graduate from Maharaja Manindra Chandra College, too voiced the same concern even though her ambition is to work for a reputed media organisation one day. “At the end of the day, I cannot stay unemployed. If nothing works out I have to look for another option,” Chakraborty said.
The concern is not only in the newsrooms but in other sectors too – Public Relations, Advertising, etc. With numerous established companies and start-ups in India are applying pay-cuts resorting to termination, this news may not be public domain. If delved properly, things are much more serious than what meets the eye.