Mumbai: Entertainment industry workers plan to disrupt television shooting schedules to force defaulting broadcasters to pay what they owe production houses.
The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), the parent body of 22 workers’ associations, says some broadcasters owe considerable sums of money to programme producers, who, in turn, haven’t been able to pay their workers.
To start with, FWICE has threatened to disrupt television shoots of Sahara One Media and Entertainment Ltd and INX Media Pvt. Ltd.
Paid up: A scene from TV soap Meet Mila De Rabba. Multi Screen settled outstandings Rs1.91 cr for the show after a shoot was halted.
Sahara owes producers Rs15 crore for the reality show Biggest Loser Jeetega (The biggest loser will win) of which at least Rs4 crore is due to FWICE workers, the federation’s general secretary Dinesh Chaturvedi said.
The show, which depicted 16 aspirants trying to lose weight, went on the air in May 2007 and ended in September. “In Sahara’s case, we have sent them a notice once. They have not responded,” said Chaturvedi. “We will soon stop the shoots of all of Sahara’s shows”.
Sahara did not reply to emails sent by Mint on Tuesday morning. A Sahara spokersperson contacted by Mint offered no comment.
Broadcasters have been under pressure because of slowing advertising revenue and delayed payments by big advertisers as the economy endures a downturn. A list prepared by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) for its members this month showed various top advertisers among defaulters.
“Since the last year, payments from advertisers have really slowed down. The credit period is 65 days from the day of the broadcaster’s invoice but that gets extended,” said a member of IBF, who didn’t want to be named.
Delays also happen because media agencies take their time in presenting invoices to advertisers, he said
According to FWICE, INX Media’s 9X general entertainment channel owes producers as much as Rs100 crore, of which Rs25 crore would be payments due to workers.
“We will deal with all these channels one by one; 9X is next after Sahara. At the moment, we are looking to get a settlement from Sahara,” said Chaturvedi.
A spokesperson for 9X said the channel was trying to work out a repayment schedule. The channel expects production houses to pay their workers once the dues are settled, he added.
“We have been in regular touch with all our production houses on the outstanding and in joint collaboration with them are working on the repayment schedule”, the spokesperson said.
FWICE wants to target individual broadcasters by disrupting their shooting schedules rather than go on strike, to avoid hurting the entire entertainment industry. The entertainment business was badly hit when when workers went on strike over stagnant wages in October.
“We are clear that we are not going to enter into a strike as we did in 2008, which brought the entertainment industry to a halt. We are just going to disrupt shoots of broadcasters who have not paid up”, said Chaturvedi.
Such actions have worked in the past. By disrupting shooting schedules, FWICE gotZee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd to pay Rs66 lakh dues to workers. “We had stopped all shoots of Jhansi Ki Rani because of pending payments but the matter has now been sorted out,” says Chaturvedi. Zee Entertainment said it would not like to comment on the matter.
The tactic also worked with Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd, which has channels such as Sony and Sony SET Max. The broadcaster settled outstandings approaching Rs 1.91 crore for the show Meet Mila De Rabba after a shoot was stopped, FWICE said.
A Multi Screen Media executive declined to comment.
Smriti Irani of the eponymous Smriti Irani Productions Ltd, which has produced TV shows such as Waaris shown on Zee Entertainment, said: “When I enter into deals with corporates (broadcasters), I expect them to fulfil their commitments. If they don’t, how am I supposed to fulfil my commitments to FWICE workers”?
Individual producers are clearly facing the brunt of FWICE’s tactics. Says Dheeraj Kumar, chairman and managing director of production house Creative Eye Pvt. Ltd and vice-president of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India: “I am sympathetic to the cause of FWICE workers but stalling shoots and disrupting work is not the answer. Everyone knows that if shoots are stopped, then it is producers who are impacted the most and not the channels. FWICE must sit with producers’ bodies and broadcasters and decide how to streamline the process of payments better”.