Pay cuts, layoffs: Kenyan media is in for tough times as ads drop

NAIROBI, April 30, 2020 – Journalists and staff working for five leading media groups in Kenya will have their pays slashed by up to 50% due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nation Media group the largest private media group in the region, on Wednesday, said all employees earning more than Kshs.50,000 (approximately $500) per month will take temporary pay cuts, terms will be “reviewed every three months depending on the company’s performance.”

This follows similar reductions by the owners of print, online and broadcast companies from the Standard Media Group, Radio Africa Group, MediaMax Networks and Royal Media Services due to a slump in advertising revenues. The Kenyan journalists are now amongthousands of media workers around the world who have either been furloughed, lost their jobs or had their salaries reduced.

As in most countries, the Kenyan government announced lockdowns in mid-March that have forced businesses to suspend, reduce operations or close.

It’s crunch time for Kenyan media companies, most of which were already feeling the pressure to remain in business as the economy continues to struggle.

Nation Media Group: Pay Cuts

The Nation Media Group the largest independent media house in East and Central Africa with operations in print, broadcast and digital media, delayed taking any cuts in March and April as they gauged the economic impact of the novel Covid-19.

But the Chief Executive Officer Stephen Gitagama in an internal email said the pay cuts ranging from 5% to 35% were necessary to ‘keep the business running’.

The company had already sliced contributors and columnists’ pay by 40 per cent.

“As part of these measures, the Board of Directors have taken a reduction on their directors’ fees… We have taken a painful but necessary decision to temporarily reduce the gross pay for all staff earning a gross monthly pay of Kshs. 50,000/= and over, effective from 1st May 2020,” said the CEO of the company that produces the leading National daily paper.

Royal Media Group: Pay cuts

The company that owns the popular Citizen TV and 14 radio stations were the first to announce intended pay cuts in late March.

Royal Media Group Managing Director Wachira Waruru announced the intended cuts of between 20% and 30 based on employees job level.

“Each staff will be issued with their individual letter through their supervisor. This reduction is temporary and will be reversed when things return to normal.”

Radio Africa Group: Pay Cuts

Radio Africa Group that publishes the Star newspaper and owns six radio stations also introduced reductions effective 1stApril, ranging between 20% and 30%.

“We managed to pay March salaries on time but our business is already seeing a major loss of advertising revenue from April,” said Radio Africa CEO Patrick Quarco in staff communication.

“We have come up with the following measures that will apply to all employees immediately effective 1st April 2020, all employees earning a gross (monthly) salary of more than Kshs. 100,000­ (approximately $1,000) will take a 30% pay cut.

“Effective 1st April 2020, all employees earning a gross salary of less than Kshs100,000 will take a 20% pay cut.”

MediaMax Networks: Pay Cuts … after earlier retrenchments

Mediamax Networks the parent company to K24Tv and People Daily that is reportedly co-owned by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto, notified staff of its intent to make reductions of between 20% and 50% also based on job levels effective April 2020.

The company that had already laid off about 160 employees last October, had planned to slash salaries by half, for its top earners.

“Amongst the proposed measures that will directly apply to employees will be a reduction of between 20% and 50% on Gross monthly pay based on job levels effective April 2020,” wrote the acting CEO Ken Ngaruiya in internal communication.

164 staff members have since moved to court to bar the media house from implementing the measures announced on April 17.

The Standard Group: Pay Cuts, Retrenchments

Even before local businesses were ravaged by the pandemic, The Standard Group that has newspaper operations, television (KTN), a host of radio stations, and online services announced plans to lay off 170 staff due to poor business performance.

As employees were coming to terms with the planned layoffs in phases, the Standard Group CEO and MD Orlando Lyomu announced plans to cut pay across the board.

The company’s intended pay cut for employees of between 20-30% depending on job group, have since been stopped.

“The Board of Directors of The Standard Group Plc. agreed to not only take a cut on their allowances but to also defer the payable amount until such a time that things will normalize,” said the CEO in a staff memo.

“Additionally, the Company has decided to effect measured pay reductions on consolidated salaries for all staff effective 1st April 2020, until further notice.”

The Kenya Union of Journalists secured a court order stopping the media group from further implementing cuts.

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