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TV and radio broadcasters take a cautious approach to hiring

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TV and radio broadcasters take a cautious approach to hiring

The hiring sentiment in the broadcasting industry is subdued at the moment. In television, this is on account of many things...the regulatory environment, the numerous challenges it recently faced (read TAM, net vs. gross billing, etc.), and of course, the sluggish economy. In radio broadcasting, the reasons are the upcoming elections and lack of expected progress in Phase III expansion, among other things.

“Everyone is concerned about the current state of the economy – the markets, tight liquidity, high interest rates and depreciating rupee. Both, the manufacturing and service sectors have shown a contraction and the economy is stagnant. The media and entertainment space is a subset of this universe. In addition, it is facing its own multiple challenges that add to the pressure,” said Abha Kapoor, Executive Director, K&J Search Consultants.

Broadcasters are facing intense pressure. The answer in such a situation is to manage costs, and the first thing that goes out of the window is hiring, and in some extreme cases, it results in large number of employees being given the pink slip – rumours are doing the rounds in the industry that a large broadcasting and publishing group has laid off anywhere between 300 and 500 employees.

Organisations, for obvious reasons, have remained tight-lipped about such developments – if any. Most TV broadcasters that exchange4media contacted refused to comment on their hiring / firing status.

“The mood at the start of the year was slightly more optimistic, but the last two months have been quite a dampener in the TV space. Along with advertising revenues being hit, subscription revenues are yet to deliver on the promise they hold,” said Kapoor.

However, the scenario is not all gloomy. Industry sources reveal that thought there are a few exceptions, hiring is not completely frozen. It is definitely taking place, but is masked using unconventional means. A broadcaster of second rung of channels is looking at getting people on board on contract basis. This essentially means that people are roped in for specific projects and not on payroll. This helps a broadcaster as it can get the most out of the talent in the limited time frame and also gets rid of the probation headache, allowing them to cut down headcount as per changing industry scenario.

Hiring is mostly taking place at the junior and mid levels. This ensures that costs are low and fresh young talent comes in. One of the leading TV broadcasters has hired a large number of freshers with the help of job consultants.

“It’s a good time for freshers in radio as ‘radio passionate ones’ don't offer any risk as their cost is low and motivation very high,” said Vineet Singh Hukmani, MD and CEO, Radio One.

Radio’s mood
Talking to radio channels brought to the fore mixed reactions. While Chennai Live said that there is no fresh hiring, Radio One shared it is pretty buoyant at mid and junior levels in the industry.

Delay in radio Phase III has put a dampner on expansion plans; and this directly puts a cap on hiring.

“The situation is pretty static; it was better at the beginning of the year. As the year progressed, economic activity slowed down. Also, at the beginning of the year players were positive about Phase III and were keen on hiring. As of now, we plan on keeping the headcount stable,” said Prem Kumar, COO, Chennai Live.

Growth opportunity
Broadcasters are getting conservative on headcounts and stretching existing employees to do more. This can also be seen as an opportunity to grow mid- and senior-level talent without incurring additional costs of hiring. Fewer external resources are being brought in and talent within the organisation is being pushed to create value and expand skill-sets, explained Kapoor.

Youngsters should leverage this situation as they can now gain experience beyond their job profile. All they need is a little drive.

Radio is a young medium and players are always looking for fresh talent. “There is a lot of scope for interns,” said Kumar.

The bright side
Though regulatory environmental changes in the media industry are being blamed for putting pressure on the sector, few believe that it can also ensure aggressive growth.

“While other sectors are taking the wait and watch approach because of the economic uncertainty, media is looking at it as an opportunity. This growth mode is ensuring that organisations are looking at hiring and retaining the best talent possible,” said Rajendra Mehta, EVP & Head – HR (Global), ZEE.

Content will be the only differentiator with digitisation and radio Phase III coming into play. A broadcaster will need to produce content that resonates with the audiences and meets their demands. And this is only possible with the right talent.

Digitisation has ensured wider reach. With more consumer data available now, we have to effectively gather those inputs and cater to increased demands. Forward looking organisations continue to attract the best talent. We are in growth mode and will aggressively hire this fiscal, shared Mehta.

“The ongoing digitisation of the cable television network will hopefully change the business ecosystem for Indian broadcasters and act as a catalyst for international players to enter the country. The success of this initiative will contribute in a big way to bringing in optimism once again to this sector,” stated K&J Search Consultants’ Kapoor.

The situation is dim in TV and radio broadcast sector, and media professionals are anxious as the future seems uncertain. But there is hope, with digitisation and radio Phase III expansion being potential indicators. The focus should now be on new ways of doing business (read subscription, branded content) to drive revenues.  This will ease the pressure on human assets and boost organic growth. It is time to get innovative!

With inputs from Saloni Surti


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