The restructuring at the Continental Broadcasting Services Limited, owners of Television Continental ( TVC) and Radio Continental that led to the sacking of 145 staff should not have come as a surprise to workers of the company and anyone conversant with the state of the media, locally and globally.
With the alarming dwindling income from advertising and sales, mass sack in media organisations, like any other industry struggling to cope with the dire economic situation of the country, shouldn’t have caught anyone unawares.
Any organisation that is unable to earn enough to meet its obligations, including salaries and allowances, not to talk of profits for its owners cannot survive for long.
The true state of the Nigerian media is that most have been performing miracles by circulating and remaining on air.
Before last Friday’s downsizing at CBS, there have been many unreported job losses and delay and non- payment of salaries across media houses. Only very few media organisations pay commensurate salaries as at when due.
While not attempting to rationalize the continuous sack of media workers, the truth of the matter is that it is indeed a case of sooner or later the decision to sack or close down operation will be taken.
Apart from the economic situation in the country and the impact of new media, I share the view that some of the affected media houses would probably not have been badly hit as they are presently if they had not been overambitious in expanding their operations, recruited more staff than they needed and payed less attention to the the threat of the digital media.
I also agree to an extent that some of the media organisations are unnecessarily top heavy with disproportionate salary scale for management staff and other layers. Whatever the case may be, the media is presently at a crossroads with the certainty that more journalists may have to be laid off due to lack of adequate resources to sustain funding of media operations.
More than ever before, this is the time for media houses to review their operations and reinvent their services. Media organisations have to become more multi-media and business like in their production. They need to try new business models.
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They cannot afford to continue to be limited to being print or broadcast houses, but must now operate as media companies that have the capacity to do what we are used to doing in a better and more dynamic way and explore other possible related businesses.
Hard decisions have to be taken about their continued existence, including retaining, sacking and employing requisites staff that can take them to the next level in the media industry.
At individual level, journalists should come to terms with the reality that the media is a business that cannot survive on continuous injection of extra funds by owners who are not guaranteed any profit. Benefits in kind ( influence) is not enough.
Some journalists have either outlived their usefulness to their media houses based on lack of adequate new media knowledge for sourcing and disseminating information or become part of the excess staff considering reduced production level and they need to know that their time will soon be up.
Even for some of those still needed and are competent for their assignments, economic reasons may necessitate laying them off if they cannot be accommodated with the limited resources available to their organisations.
Every journalists who wants to continue to be relevant in and out of their present media employment or private media business should acquire necessary skills for taking advantage of new opportunities on various traditional and new media platforms.
If a number of people who do not have the kind of rich media experience some traditional journalists have can make modest income from understanding how to use the new media, no journalist has an excuse not to make the best of the circumstance despite the gloom in the industry.
There is need for intensive training and retraining of journalists considering the changing media landscape which should be initiated by professional media groups and unions.
When the going gets tough like it is now in the media, only the tough, knowledgeable, innovative, global-minded, willing to learn and new age journalist can get going.
For journalists who have other skills than journalism, they must nurture such skills and be ready to make profitable use of them if journalism is unable to pay their bills. In tough times like this, journalism should not be an end in itself, it should be a means to an end.
To the sacked CBS media staff and others before them, this development may seem like a major bus-stop in their career journey, but it is not supposed to be their final destination.
I do not have the illusion that it will be easy for the sacked journalists and those who will still lose their jobs to get new employment or begin their own start- ups, but where there is a will or no option of being any other thing than a media professional, there will be a way.