Battered by the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian newspaper industry has approached the Narendra Modi government for a relief package.
“In a presentation to the government, the Indian Newspaper Society has estimated that the industry has already suffered a loss of Rs 4,000-4,500 crore in March and April since economic activity has nearly collapsed, resulting in nil advertising during the crucial months,” the reported today. “INS, which represents over 800 newspapers, has said that the losses are expected to continue at the same rate for the next six to seven months, implying an additional loss of Rs 12,000-15,000 crore, unless a stimulus is announced and then acted upon soon by the government.”
The industry has thus sought the removal of the five percent import duty on newsprint imposed in the last budget; a tax holiday for two years; a 50 percent hike in advertisement rates of the Bureau of Outreach and Communication, which supplies government ads to the media; immediate release of all outstanding ad dues from the bureau and various state governments; and a 200 percent increase in the budget spend for the print media.
India’s newspaper industry is estimated to employ around 10 lakh people directly and 18-20 lakh indirectly. The daily quoted the INS president, Shailesh Gupta, as noting that “due to these severe losses and choking of cash flows, newspaper establishments are finding it very difficult to even disburse employee salaries and vendor payments”.
In recent weeks, several top newspapers, including the , and , have cut or deferred the wages of their staff. The , which runs the Times of India and the Economic Times, has not only reduced salaries but also fired some staff.
Though the print media seems the hardest hit by the pandemic, which has disrupted the distribution of newspapers, the digital and broadcast media are also struggling. Several TV channels and online news outlets, including , and the , have either cut wages or laid off staff, or both, in recent weeks. All India Radio, the state broadcaster, ignored government advisories to put .
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