Fed up with constant negative publicity of Zee News, the owner Subhash Chandra recently decided to do a ‘DNA test’ of his controversial editor, Sudhir Chaudhary.
The editor, who’s had to spend time in Tihar jail in an alleged Rs 100 crore extortion case, was publicly hauled up by Chandra’s confidante, Amit Jain, in a townhall meeting.
The meeting was held at the Zee News’ new building in Film City of Noida on 27 July.
According to channel insiders, a circular was sent on 26 July to every staff working for Zee News, Zee Business and the group’s other subsidiaries including the digital division making their attendance mandatory. Staff were told to attend the meeting on 27 July at 10.30 AM regardless of their shifts or leave.
The unprecedented meeting was originally expected to be addressed by Chandra himself, but he couldn’t turn up in the end. Instead, Chandra deputed his confidante, Jain, to convey his ‘difficult message.’
Jain, in his address, spoke about the channel’s performance and how it had lost the plot recently and time was now ripe for some difficult decisions even if it involved big names.
Jain reportedly played a small video clip of an American management guru before highlighting how staff working for Zee News had no sense of ‘ownership and loyalty’ to the channel or platforms they worked for.
Jain said that Chandra was ‘not only unhappy but very distressed’ with the channel’s performance and growing negative perception about certain individuals.
According to a Zee staff, looking at Sudhir Chaudhary, Jain said that there was no holy cow in the organisation and even ‘celebrity’ employees were likely to be shown the door if it was in the channel’s interests.
Jain then reportedly had a go at Samir Ahluwalia, CEO (content) in the organisation, adding that if Samir thought his job was safe because he was involved in the extortion case against industrialist Naveen Jindal, then it was a mistake on his part.
Ahluwalia is a co-accused with Chaudhary in the Rs 100 crore extortion case and he too had spent time in Tihar.
Jain then concluded his speech by saying that he was available for feedback and suggestions from staff asking them to ‘come forward and discuss your problems.’
It was at this juncture that Chaudhary arrived at the stage requesting to speak. In his brief speech, Chaudhary reportedly proposed ‘Kamraj plan’ saying that the ‘chairman (Chandra) was free to build his team’ but he should be given a ‘free hand.’ ‘And it’s only possible if we all resign’ adding that he wanted to be the first to do so.
A channel insider told jantakareporter.com that at least over hundred employees met Jain in the next few days. The dominating theme of the complaints were that the channel, at the behest of Chaudhary, was behaving like a headless chicken with staff being forced to throw its support in favour of one political party.
Others reportedly referred to the sensational resignation of former employee Viswa Deepak, who had slammed the channel’s unethical journalism during the Kanhaiya Kumar controversy.
Sources close to Chandra told jantakareporter.com that the Zee group chairman and his family members, who had visited Delhi earlier this month to attend the former’s Rajya Sabha swearing in ceremony, were very concerned about the recent hardening of stand by the Supreme Court in the extortion case. Chandra is also running out of patience because of the falling TRP, which has placed the channel at number six position, even lower than India News and News Nation.
One source said that Chandra wouldn’t even ‘mind sacrificing Chaudhary and Ahluwalia’ if it meant he had tension free tenure as a Rajya Sabha MP.
The Supreme Court had last month warned Chaudhary and Ahluwalia to be prepared to go back to jail if they withdrew their consent. Both the executives had given their consent to Delhi Police to cooperate in the investigation as part of condition to secure their release from the Tihar Jail.
We wrote to Chaudhary asking for his response but the Zee editor has chosen not to comment.
As for Ahluwalia, he told Newslaundary that ‘I do not comment on internal matters of Zee.’
Sources say that Chaudhary may be forced to leave the organisation within a fornight.