In times of Covid-19, TOI reports on why disrupting newspaper distribution is a legal offence

Meanwhile, the Economic Times dropped six pages from its print edition starting today.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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The Economic Times has slashed its number of pages as the media industry goes into crisis mode following the coronavirus outbreak and the economic slowdown. From today, the Economic Times will comprise 12 pages: six pages fewer than its previous avatar.

The Times Group, meanwhile, is going all out.

First, it assured its readers that there's no cause for alarm about Covid-19 transmitting through newspapers.

Next, it sent The Print a legal notice for publishing a report that said Covid-19 transmission through newspapers was "unlikely" but "theoretically possible". The legal notice said The Print's report “disparages newspapers and their operations with malicious intention”.

The group's latest offering was in today's Times of India, where it lined up five senior lawyers to "express concern" over "continued disruption in the distribution of newspapers even when they have been categorised an essential service". This is an offence under the Essential Services Maintenance Act, the paper emphasised.

The top lawyers roped in were Harish Salve, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Maninder Singh, Rakesh Dwivedi, and Tushar Mehta. Quotes ranged from how "freedom of ensured by the freedom of circulation" to how one of them "needs newspapers more than biscuits in the morning".

All this while important questions are being raised on whether newspapers will be able to survive the pandemic. Advertising revenues have been hit, and several publications have withdrawn their print editions. Some, like the Indian Express, have already announced pay cuts while Republic's Arnab Goswami, who's the president of the News Broadcasters Federation, has appealed to the advertising fraternity to keep media houses afloat.

In Delhi, newspaper vendors said they're caught between customers and coronavirus: The distribution system makes them pay for the paper, but the pandemic keeps them from recovering the cost from the customer.

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