Indian Newspaper Society (INS) President L Adimoolam has once again written to the government, asking for a stimulus package for the struggling newspaper industry that has been hit by the Covid-19 lockdown.
Stating that the industry has already lost around Rs 12,500 crore in the last eight months, and pegging the estimated annual loss at around Rs 16,000 crore, he said, “The newspaper industry is facing an unprecedented crisis with its revenue streams, both advertising and circulation, have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
In the stimulus package, the society has made five key demands— removal of 5% customs duty on newsprint, 200% increase in government ad spend on print media, 50% increase in government ad rates, immediate settlement of outstanding bills for government ads and two-years tax holiday.
“The print industry involves high costs. We have costs involved for not only gathering news but also for the infrastructure needed for printing. This is the worst-ever crisis for the industry and among all the media, the pandemic has affected print the most. Many have already shut down and many others may soon have to,” Mohit Jain, Vice-President, Indian Newspaper Society told BestMediaInfo.com.
“The government ad spends towards print has only been shrinking every year and they have not increased it. So we want them to increase the outlay by 200%. Also, there is a large outstanding of earlier Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) payments. If they could release that payment, it would be timely. All publishers are under a cash crunch,” he said.
In his statement, Adimoolam highlighted that the collapse of the industry would have a devastating ripple effect as it supports 30 lakh workers and staff, both directly and indirectly. This includes journalists, printers, delivery vendors as well as the larger eco-system of allied industries, printing presses, distribution supply chain, including newspaper vendors and delivery boys.
He spoke about the vital role played by the Indian newspaper industry during the pandemic in disseminating factual news, “which has been duly acknowledged by the Honourable Supreme Court and its functionaries, from time to time”.
Rejecting concerns that a stimulus package from the government could lead to censorship, Jain said, “It shouldn’t. The government should realise that ‘Freedom of Expression’ is important for a democracy. It can’t do away with the fourth pillar of democracy.”
Also an Executive Director of Bennett Coleman and Company Limited (BCCL), he spoke about his organisation’s challenges through the pandemic. “We had huge losses at the beginning of the pandemic. With circulation and ad revenue down, our financial performance was affected. It was challenging to pay salaries and to sustain through this time,” he said.
The society had earlier written to the government in May after the industry suffered a loss of Rs 4,500 crore during March and April.