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A community stalwart in the mainstream newspapers, for all the wrong reasons, is bound to cause shock. The Indian community in Sydney and Melbourne woke up to a major story in the newspapers dated 21 June about SBS Hindi. A former employee, journalist Pallavi Jain, is taking the multicultural broadcaster to court claiming unfair dismissal.
Jain claimed that she had been bullied and harassed by her then-manager and SBS Hindi’s executive producer Kumud Merani since she joined the program in 2013.
Well-known in Australia’s Indian community, and one of the most recognisable figures in the Sydney community’s social scene, Merani has led SBS Hindi from 1985 until her retirement this year. So long has been her career with the one-hour daily show, that her name is almost synonymous with SBS Hindi.
According to court documents, Jain had filed three complaints with SBS about being bullied by Merani. The first official complaint made in 2015 was internally reviewed and dismissed by SBS.
Jain then reached out to external organisations for help. Subsequently, the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance’s union for journalists (MEAA) actions through the Fair Work Commission forced SBS to carry out an independent investigation. In 2016, the investigation found Jain’s claims to be true.
It was reported that the investigation “determined Merani had engaged in repeated, unwelcome, unsolicited, unreciprocated behaviour that constituted bullying and harassment while finding Jain to be an honest and reliable witness.”
Despite the evidence, the multicultural broadcaster refused Jain’s requests to change managers. SBS’s non-redressal of her situation led to deteriorating mental health, anxiety and panic attacks, Jain’s medical records showed.
To read of such a stalwart accused of relentless workplace bullying in the two newspapers raised more than few eyebrows.
But not everyone is shocked.
“The Pallavi story has been known for some time now, discussed and dissected at length,“ one associate of SBS Hindi told Indian Link. ( They do not wish to reveal whether they were one of the sources interviewed by SMH / The Age.)
It is not an isolated case either, the source revealed, citing names and grievances, some of them going back more than two decades.
Some community members/listeners also have had grievances of their own, which they raised with SBS management on multiple occasions but did not see satisfactory redressal.
https://t.co/3UQ49EP3y4 It’s nice to see the story of the victim @Pallavi_Aus being covered by @smh‘s @zoesam93 & @CharlotteGriev1. @SBSHindi has/had a cultural problem & plays a favoritism game with the audience too. Senior management didn’t do much when complaints were made. 2/
— Yadu Singh (@dryadusingh) June 21, 2021
“I must have complained so many times against the non-journalistic behaviour by @SBSHindi over the years, but not much was done by the senior management. It’s time that @SBS MD and senior management do wake up and fix the problem,” Yadu Singh added.
“Finally, a fair & appropriate action by @SBS management will be to reinstitute @Pallavi_Aus in her @SBSHindi job. She has suffered a lot. Ms. Merani is gone. It’s the time for @SBS to do the right thing! Take Pallavi back! @PaulFletcherMP @MRowlandMP @ScottMorrisonMP 4/.”
The Merani case comes in the wake of other reports of a toxic culture at the multicultural broadcaster. The SMH / The Age stories cite veteran news presenter Lin Lee Chin as she made claims of junior staff facing bullying at SBS.
Other journalists have made similar claims.
In 2020, Nick Bhasin wrote an article in the SMH exposing toxic workplace culture at SBS when he complained to HR about ignorant remarks. “The prejudice I faced wasn’t a network problem – it was mine,” he wrote citing weak redressal.
30-odd years ago, I did my undergrad dissertation on the history of @SBS. It was set up thanks to tireless lobbying by migrants for news from home. Sounds like it’s become an awful place for migrants to work. #DEI #diversity https://t.co/ZYdJDNCIJd
— Corinne Podger (@corinne_podger) June 20, 2021
As the hearing of Jain’s general protections claim begins today, the Pallavi Jain vs SBS case of David and Goliath will have the community closely watching.
From The Age and SMH reports
If you’re facing bullying at the workplace, you can apply for an order to stop the bullying with Fair Work Commission.
If you’ve experienced bullying and it is affecting your mental health, talk things through with Beyond Blue’s Support Services on 1300 22 4636.
READ ALSO: Tackling workplace vilification
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