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Is FWICE losing control over TV editors?

MUMBAI: The film and TV industry in Mumbai is surrounded by threats and disruptions to its normal schedule. Just a few weeks after the Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees (FWICE) called off their strike and agreed to resolve matters with the Indian Film and TV Producers Council (IFTPC), the TV and film editors, one of the 22 crafts within FWICE, has now gone on an indefinite strike. The surprise: FWICE does not support the strike.

Once again, it is an unsigned memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the FWICE and IFTPC that began it all.

The producers did not sign the MoU due to some anti-competitive clauses, while FWICE refused to hear them out. A strike and several meetings later, lawyers of both parties agreed to sit down and build a common framework. The MoU was slated to be signed by 14 October, but it got delayed because of long processing time.

TwiceWhile the FWICE and IFTPC were waiting patiently, one craft within the body comprising TV editors called for an indefinite strike due to the delay in the signing of the MoU.

FWICE general secretary Dilip Pithva told TelevisionPost.com that the editors went on strike without any notice to the parent body.

“We are not supporting this strike. In fact, the leaders of the craft have not called for a strike; some of the members have voluntarily withdrawn. We tried to stop them and make them understand, but they are not listening,” Pithva said.

Matters escalated when FWICE sent out a mail to the IFTPC, Film and TV Guild of India and Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association regarding the illegal strike called by a section of the editors.

The mail, a copy of which is with TelevisionPost.com, reads, “It has come to our attention that a section of TV editors, supported by numerous non-members who are assistants and associates, has called for a flash strike in gross violation of the advice of the FWICE. Please note that the FWICE in no way endorses or is responsible for this illegal act.”

IFTPC co-chairman and producer JD Majethia states that the section of editors wanted to talk to IFPTC.

“But we refused because we are talking to their mother body. We can’t be talking to each craft separately when we converse with the mother body. And our motto is we will talk if you resume work. We cannot talk under threat,” he says.

Producers say that it is for the first time they are witnessing such lawlessness as the editors beat up several other editors who reported to work. This prompted many producers to approach the police and file a complaint.

“I am sure they have their set of demands, but it is the responsibility of FWICE to keep the 22 crafts under control. It’s unfortunate to see that today the FWICE is losing control over its own crafts,” Swastik Productions’ Rahul Tewary said.

Added Shashi Sumeet Productions’ Sumeet Hukamchand Mittal: “The strike of the editors has come to us as a shock. They are putting telecast of original shows at a risk. But I can proudly say that the producers are managing to deliver the shows to the broadcasters despite the strike.”

With this agitation on and no clear resolution in sight, TV broadcasters fear that they will have to go into repeat telecast.

The business head of a Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) said that, while so far there has been no major impact, if the strike continues beyond Monday, there could be some issues.

“For daily shows it is really bad. There is not much of a bank and getting shows edited on a makeshift arrangement is not easy. Our programming team has been meeting producers and we are trying to get a solution as soon as possible,” he said.

In fact, many channels have offered their offices and in-house resources for edits. Majethia also confirmed that some of the editing of the daily soaps has now moved out of Mumbai and is being sent to other cities.

“The business is slowly moving out of Mumbai because of all these issues. In fact, almost all the channels have started commissioning the shows out of Mumbai now,” said a producer, who did not wish to be named.

Another channel head confirmed on condition of anonymity that it is a daily struggle and while some of the work can be shifted to Bengaluru or Delhi, it is at the end of the day a skilled job.

“The way Hindi GECs work, it is not possible to keep bank of all the shows. While a few shows will have 5–6 episodes canned, most of them have 2 or 3 at the most. Producers will have to solve this issue pronto,” he added.

Hindi GECs have original shows airing at the prime time. Star Plus, for instance, has maximum hours of original programming in a week starting from 5 pm until 11 pm and from Monday to Saturday.

While Pithva said that loads of discussions have taken place over the MoU, the parties have arrived at a conclusion and the MoU should be signed within a couple of days.

Majethia, on the contrary, stated that they were going to close the MoU, but with regard to the editors on strike, there will be no resolution until the strike is officially withdrawn.

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