Payment woes amid lockdown: Will TV industry alter the 90-day credit system?
TV actors speak up on the existing 90-day period of payments, after Ministry of Information and Broadcasting urges producers to “ensure all payments due to such persons up to March 2020 are cleared at the earliest”
A lot of behind-the-scenes changes in the Indian TV industry are being planned in the aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak. But will there be a reduction in the existing 90-day credit period of payments in the interest of artistes and workers, some of whom are either waiting for past dues to be cleared, or wondering when shoots will resume and the cycle of payments will begin post lockdown.
Two suicide cases, and the ensuing revelations around the financial stress faced by TV artistes due to pending dues. has led the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to urge producers to “ensure that all payments due to such persons up to March 2020 are cleared at the earliest”.
This has come after the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), proposed a guideline that “outstanding dues should be cleared by the producers before starting the shoots and the payments should be made within 30 days of the shoot” whenever shoots resume post lockdown.
“The workers work on a monthly basis, and get paid after three months. As part of our suggestions for the post-Covid guidelines, this is a key issue, apart from shift timings, medical facilities on sets, hygiene and sanitation,” FWICE president B.N. Tiwari tells us.
TV artistes and technicians have for long been vocal about getting payments 90 days after the first telecast of a show, leaving them dependent on their savings to pay rent, GST and other expenses. And like actor Arjun Bijlani reveals, “A lot of times once shows are over, some producers don’t pay the actors and technicians or harass them for the last 2 cheques. One has to keep following up even thought it’s our hard-earned money.”
Bijlani adds, “If things have to change, they have to change from the top... Everyone has their set of bills to pay, and nobody is giving them credit for sure.”
It’s a circle, agrees actor-producer J.D. Majethia, tracing how money trickles from consumer to manufacturers/distributors to advertisers to TV channels to producers and back to consumer (artistes and technicians), who spend again.
As long as those who have to pay, have “wish, possibility and ways”, he says a conducive payment system can be put in place. Personally, he plans to explore a new payment model without putting pressure on channels. “Every person will have to understand that if they want their business to work, they will have to put in some money in the economy themselves,” Majethia says.
Aishwarya Sakhuja, who has been vocal about the issue, however says, “Producers are becoming a little more flexible... If you have a contract and you want to put a clause (for earlier payments), the producers are ready to listen.”
Rubina Dilaik points out, “Around 80% of those working in showbiz are from different parts of India. They don’t have a regular source of income to sustain themselves and to survive in times of such cut-throat competition, people need some sort of security”.
Actor Vineet Raina, who outlined struggles of TV artistes via a recent online video, is all for reduction of the credit system from 90 to 30 days, as is Toral Rasputra, who believes that “the amount of hardwork we put in, at least we deserve timely pay”.
Raina asks, “”All sectors, whether it’s doctors or police, get monthly salaries. Why can’t we get it monthly too?” He himself began working on a new show in January, and is yet to get paid. While he understands “nobody can be blamed” as it’s a cycle, he suggests, “Everyone should sit down and decide on new implementations so that things become better for the near future.”
But that cannot happen over a Zoom call, says Amit Behl, Senior Joint Secretary, Cine and TV Artistes’ Association (CINTAA), and adds, “All the producers’ association and broadcasters understand that this crisis is affecting everybody. People are clearing due payments, and every craft has been instructed to bring it to a channel or the concerned association’s notice in case of defaulters.”
As for the defaulters, Majethia, as Chairman, TV wing of the Indian Film and TV Producers Council, says, “It is wrong if people haven’t paid others’ dues. Those facing such issues can write to CINTAA, which can forward the grievances to us, and we can take it up with concerned producers so that they clear payments.”
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