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There can be no compromise on the safety of our people: Network18's Rahul Joshi

After Zee News reported that 29 employees had tested positive for COVID-19, Network18 has disclosed that after extensively testing 700 employees, 16 have tested positive for COVID-19. In an internal email to employees, of which Adgully has a copy, Rahul Joshi, MD & CEO, Network18, talked about the company’s efforts to identify and isolate staff affected by COVID-19 in their organisation. 

Joshi emphasised, “In this time, our topmost priority has been, and will continue to be, the health and well-being of each and every one of our colleagues. I have written often to share my thoughts and our company’s actions in this regard. Over the past two months, we have tested more than 700 colleagues and their immediate families. Because of the strict work protocols, we have put in place, the cases that have been detected have not spread the infection in the workplace. From among the more than 7,000 employees across the length and breadth of India, only 16 colleagues have tested positive. Most of them have recovered and many are asymptomatic. We have tested most colleagues at Reliance facilities and treated them and their families at RIL's hospitals." 

He added, "My mantra from day one has been Safety First. Protection of our colleagues is at the heart of our strategy. Ratings may have suffered in some weeks for some channels, but we know our priorities. There can be no compromise on the safety of our people.”

Joshi went on to list proactive measures taken by the company to deal with the epidemic, which include:

  • Except those at the frontlines of TV news broadcast, all others are working from home. We have made arrangements so that those working from home can do so as if it were business-as-usual.
  • Teams are working in batches that don’t come in contact with each other. Employees also take turns working alternate weeks. Although this has meant that we are operating with much smaller teams than our regular strength, this practice has the merit of safety.
  • In most cases, we have established or used alternate facilities to stay safe. We work apart yet stay together.
  • All employees are equipped with masks, gloves, sanitisers and immunity-boosting vitamin pills. Many reporters in the frontlines are armed with PPE suits. Every square-inch of our facilities is disinfected with anti-viral treatment and cleaned daily, and deep-cleaning takes place several times a week. All mass-contact surfaces are cleaned with disinfectants many times daily. Many of you have given feedback that our hygiene standards are the best in the news industry.
  • Reporters and camerapersons never enter the news floor, or indeed the office premises. All outdoor equipment is disinfected daily, and so are cabs. Reporters and camera teams are being equipped with protective kits.
  • The COVID tracker application, an early innovation from Reliance, has been keeping a close eye on symptoms. If there is the slightest hint that someone is unwell with signs of coronavirus, Reliance doctors take charge. They have been on call for any emergency and continue to provide consultation. This has helped in tracing a few colleagues early on, which has helped in early isolation and treatment.
  • Every positive case has been followed up with meticulous contact-tracing. We have tested more than 700 of our employees in the past couple of months. Sixteen have tested positive, but in the circumstances, it is an extraordinary statistic and a testament to all our efforts.
  • Where possible, all those who have tested positive, and their families, have been cared for at Reliance’s facilities.
  • Because of all this, our styles may have gotten a bit cramped but there was never a day any of our channels could not go live.

Employees hail company support

Viacom18 employees who have recovered from the virus have come forth and testified to HR regarding the support they received from the organisation. 

Manish Jain, who works with tech ops in Mumbai and has recovered from COVID-19, wrote, "Please accept my deepest gratitude for your support in that difficult time. Your support has been invaluable to me and I could not imagine how would I be able to survive in those critical days without your help. I remember Sanjeev sir's effective steps helped me to get admitted in hospital quickly when my test result came positive. Organization also arranged medical check-up and sample collection for my family at home on the same day and sent necessary medicines to them. This effort was speechless. I would like to take special moment to thanks all HR team, Teleport team, Reliance hospital team and, last but not the least, the Reliance Family for being with me and my family in those days.”

Shrikant Parab, who works in News18 - Lokmat in Mumbai, saw several family members coming down with COVID-19 and also lost his father. Expressing his gratitude to all the help received, he wrote, "Aapne meri har kadam par madat ki. Kathin samay mein mera pura ssath diya. Suna tha ki insan mein Bhagwan hota hai.. Aapke roop mein mujhe bhi mila. Mera poore parivaar ko aapne firse zinda kiya. Jitna bhi thank you likhu, kam hai.”

Mazhar Khan from the Mumbai creative team was diagnosed COVID-19 positive, as was his entire family. They have been discharged and he had this to say, “I want to sincerely express my gratitude and thanks to you… I cannot tell you how much this has meant to my family and me. We were not sure what we were going to do because of our situation, but your help and assistance came just in time for our family to get back on track and we thank you all very much. It is greatly appreciated."

Joshi in his letter went on to thank the efforts of all those in the organisation to create this enabling environment despite the dip in advertising revenue, and in some cases at the cost of TV ratings.

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