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From job losses to deaths, COVID-19’s impact on the media industry

Coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19, started in mid-December 2019 and by the first quarter of 2020, it impacted the entire globe. Every industry got affected by it including the media sector. Honestly speaking, media, doctors, and cops were at a greater risk given the nature of their job.

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I still remember, as a precautionary step, in our company, BIGO, we started scanning body temperature and sanitization right at the entry gate. The company also provided us masks for better protection.

I encouraged my teams to wear masks not only outside but also within the office premises.

Initially, we thought that it will be over soon. I still remember that we used to say that it will be over in a month or so. However, soon we realized the gravity of the situation.

Limiting movement of the entire population of the country (1.3 billion), on March 24, 2020, the Government of India (GOI) under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a nationwide lockdown. It was for 21 days. In India, it was a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was ordered after a 14-hour voluntary public curfew on March 22, followed by enforcement of a series of regulations in the country’s COVID-19 affected regions. In India, when confirmed COVID-19 positive cases reached approximately 500, the Modi government ordered a lockdown.

Thereafter, the lockdown was extended three more times.

The entire country came to halt during the pandemic but three services/sectors remained operational-media, doctors and police. So we continued our work.

However, like the other two sectors, the media industry also took the toll. Newsmakers started themselves becoming news. Reports of media professionals becoming positive/succumbing due to the virus started pouring in.

As late as September, news of media professionals dying due to COVID-19 became national headlines. On September 2, in Pune district of Maharashtra, a reporter with a vernacular news channel succumbed to coronavirus. Pandurang Raikar (42), a senior reporter with the TV9 news channel, passed away at a private hospital after his oxygen levels nosedived drastically.

To minimize the risk, the media industry also took measures like allowing its staff to work from home or calling half of the staff to the office.

Sadly, COVID-19 struck from two sides-it not only took lives but also jobs in the media industry. One media organization terminated its entire digital team leaving many professionals jobless. It became national news. Many media organizations reduced salaries of their employees. Some delayed the salary citing lack of funds. I personally got so many calls during this time. My friends and acquittance told me what they are going through. Yearly appraisal cycle was not initiated in many media organizations. India is already facing an unemployment crisis and this pandemic just added to the enigma.

What positive came out of it?

Every bad situation has something positive in it. Here too something positive came out, a new way of work-from-home (WFH). It is not a new concept but was used rarely in the media industry in the past. But COVID-19 made WFH an absolute necessity. So now it has become a new normal.

WFH also helped organizations to reduce their operational costs. Less staff means less use of office space, less electricity bill and yes fewer cabs for transporting the manpower.

We have learned how to sync with each other while sitting miles apart. Applications like Zoom, Google Duo, WhatsApp (video calling) helped to a great extent.
This year is about to end. I hope this challenging situation will be over soon and everything will be back to normal.

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