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Eight weeks after it last paid its staff on Oct 20, the management of Bernama TV (BTV) finally admitted that it no longer has the funds to pay its workers.


Instead, staff will only be receiving a partial back pay of RM500 today.


"This payment is part of the payment for the November 2014 salary, which could not be paid in full on schedule due to financial problems faced by the company," says a letter from BTV CEO Ibrahim Yahaya that was sighted by Malaysiakini .


When contacted, Ibrahim ( left ) said he did not know when full payment could be made, as Bernama had run out of funds to pay the BTV salaries.


" Bernama TV is a (private) company, and Bernama only owns a third of the company… (But) when Bernama TV ran into trouble, it is Bernama that has been paying the salaries," he told Malaysiakini when contacted.


"Then over time, Bernama 's funds for BTV salaries ran out (because) no new funding came in.”


However, Ibrahim said, Bernama general manager Zulkefli Salleh was trying to secure more funding from the Communication and Multimedia Ministry.


He added that BTV was also working to sell more commercial airtime, although this revenue would be used to pay to company's debts.

'Not black and white'


Last week, some 20 BTV staff resorted to taking emergency leave as they could no longer afford to travel to work.


Most are back on duty now, but with only RM500 and savings to rely on, their future is uncertain.


"It's not enough. This money is to cover back (the money used to pay bills). I'm working now, but I don't know about next week," one staff member, who declined to be named, told Malaysiakini .


"I don't know, after paying some of my bills, (the RM500) is still not enough," said another.

A freelancer working with BTV also claimed that he and other freelancers have not been paid for up to four months.

The freelancer also disputed Ibrahim’s claim that freelancers were informed that they would not be paid on time and were understanding.

"Why did (Ibrahim) say that we were all understanding? There's nothing in black and white, it's not even on (instant messenger) WhatsApp," he said.


He said stringers have also stopped receiving instructions on coverage, and that they were unofficially told to only cover major disasters.

This is not the first time that BTV had allegedly been unable to pay its workers on time.


Staff claim it had occurred from June till September this year, and also in previous years.

Up to shareholders


Ibrahim said the matter could be resolved if the company's private shareholders were willing to relinquish their shares.


“If they would sell all their shares, maybe Bernama can sell the shares to those interested in investing... But they have made no decision," he said. 

"I spoke to one of the shareholders, (but) he said that it was up to the government."


Communications and Multimedia Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek ( left ) had earlier said that there were plans to save the ailing station by turning the multilingual station to an ‘English only’ channel by next year.


Ibrahim told Malaysiakini that 32 percent of BTV's content is already in English, and that the transformation would be completed by mid-2015.


Those working on Mandarin and Tamil news will be redeployed to produce programmes and documentaries with RTM and Bernama 's wire service, the CEO said.


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