A financial crunch has hit virtually every sector of the global, and local economy and the 4th Estate is not left out. Although, the financial struggles of the sector have been palpable before COVID-19 paused economic activities, the looming recession has also weighed in on media houses heavily.
According to information gathered by ALEDEH, top newspapers like PUNCH, and The Nation have announced pay cuts and have furloughed some staff. Other types of media companies like the AIM Group, owners of Nigeria Info, Wazobia FM, Cool FM and Arewa, have also announced pay cuts for their staff.
Ademola Osinubi, the Managing Director of PUNCH Newspapers announced the decision of the company to members of staff in a memo where he explained their challenges.
“This pandemic has dealt with our business telling and severe blows. Our circulation and advertisement revenues dipped dangerously, compounding the operational and revenue challenges birthed by the migration of a majority of print newspaper readers and adverts to digital platforms.
“I am not at liberty to disclose all of the measures that the management has taken so far. But the ones that could be made public include an immediate reduction in print pagination; staff furloughing to comply with government and expert advisories on social distancing; the temporary shutdown of the sports newspaper; and significant financial reengineering.
“All projections point at a bleak and uncertain future for the media industry and the economy. Notwithstanding, the company’s commitment to the welfare of its staff remains cardinal, hence, the decision to pay 100% salaries in the month of April and fulfil all annual leave obligations, despite the dip in revenues. All staff, including our colleagues, asked to stay away from work in April, have been paid their full salaries,” he said.
Other newspapers like The Nation, Tribune, BusinessDay have also reduced their print paginations almost by half of the usual in response to the hard economy and have furloughed some staff while also slashing salaries by 10 to 50%, based on the staff’s earnings.
The AIM Group in its announcement of the difficult times and the decisions it has taken to stay afloat said in a memo;
“The Management of AIM Group has had to weigh a lot of options that can be taken during this trying times to minimize the negative impact the pandemic has had on our operations, ensure the majority of our staff are retained while still meeting up with financial obligations to you our highly esteemed employees, suppliers and other stakeholders.
“We have reached a very difficult position of placing all staff who are currently at home, not working since the commencement and who will not be working now that skeletal services will be commencing on a Furlough (unpaid leave) until things normalize. This means that while staff who are home now and not working remain our staff, they will not be paid salaries for the period not worked and until they are recalled back to the office,” the company said.
While the economy bites harder and recession knocks on the door as the Nigerian government has warned, the 4th Estate like every other part of the economy is also grappling to stay afloat and until the COVID-19 pandemic eases off and normal activities resume, this may last for some time as the companies have warned.