AS DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THE FOOD SECURITY BILL played on displays around the room, Rajdeep Sardesai took a seat at the centre of a simmering news pit in Mumbai, looking like he could use a break. Just ten days earlier, on 16 August, CNN-IBN and IBN7, the channels he oversees as editor-in-chief of the IBN Network, had witnessed the sudden layoffs of approximately 300 producers, cameramen, and reporters. Sardesai’s base of operations, at the channels’ headquarters in Noida, had been the worst affected by the forced departures; there, reporters and anchors on air had completed their broadcast and stepped off to find they no longer had a job. The layoffs were part of a large restructuring exercise recommended by Mercer and Ernst & Young for TV18, which was part of the gargantuan Network18 group. The group’s employees were told that management wanted to integrate the processes of its expansive media empire, which included CNBC-TV18, the IBN channels, Forbes India magazine, the website Firstpost, and a host of other channels and outlets across television, print and the internet.
The night before the layoffs, I met a senior CNN-IBN employee at a dimly lit coffee shop in Bandra, Mumbai. This person was washed out by the retrenchments to come. Between phone calls, over cups of coffee not quite large enough, the employee laid out the stark operational plan for the next 24 hours. “HR plans to finish by tomorrow evening. They want to finish it in a day.”