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MRUC puts IRS 2020 on hold, refunds subscribers’ payment

Given the present circumstances that make it impossible to do an on-ground survey, it is unlikely IRS will return for another year or two. Circulation of newspapers remains less than 75% of pre-Covid level

The board of Media Research Users Council (MRUC India) has decided to refund the payments to their subscribers collected for IRS 2020. The council has informed its subscribers about the refund.

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“Due to current situation, the IRS 2020 has been on hold, and MRUC board has decided that the advance paid by all subscribers towards the IRS subscription should be refunded,” the council wrote in an email to one of its subscribers.

MRUC had asked for payment for IRS 2020 in October-November last year.

Explaining about the move, an industry observer said, “IRS Q4 2019 was delayed and then Covid-19 happened. MRUC in November last year had issued Request for Proposal (RFP) to appoint a new research agency as its contract with Nielsen ended. When subscribers started asking if IRS 2020 will even happen because the fieldwork is unlikely to take place during Covid-19 and the new research agency is still not on board, MRUC returned the subscribers’ monies.”

A query sent to MRUC on the possible return of IRS went unanswered. However, a print media veteran said, “While the large players may survive, smaller players will not be able to bear the financial brunt as the return to pre-Covid ad rates may take at least one or two years. In such a situation, it will be difficult for MRUC to collect payment for conducting IRS, especially from the number 3 players onwards.”

“Given the circumstances, it is unlikely that IRS will return for another one or two years,” the veteran added.

The print media revenues have been on a decline for the last few quarters. Listed firms such as HT Media among others have been constantly reporting a decline in revenues and increasing losses.

To rationalise the cost structure, all major newspapers have already reduced staff cost.

Experts say that newspaper readership has taken a significant hit because of Covid as a lot people aren’t willing to allow newspapers in the house because of the misconception that newspapers could be potential carriers of the infection.

The overall distribution system has also taken a hit because of the lockdown. Normalcy isn’t returning anytime soon as states continue to go for mini-lockdowns.

The circulation of newspapers remains less than 75% of pre-Covid level.

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