The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has urged the government to provide a strong stimulus package to the newspaper industry which it said has lost over Rs 4,000 crore and is likely to suffer further losses of up to Rs 15,000 crore in the next six to seven months, if relief is not provided.
In a letter to the Information and Broadcasting Secretary, the INS said the newspaper industry is among the worst affected in India with hardly any revenues coming in from either advertising or circulation amid the nationwide lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The newspaper industry has already lost Rs 4000-4500 crore in the last two months. Since economic activity has nearly collapsed and there is no likelihood of advertising from private sector, the losses are expected to continue at the same rate for the next 6-7 months (implying an additional loss of Rs 12,000 - 15,000 crore over the next 6-7 months)" unless a strong stimulus is implemented by the government at the earliest, the letter signed by INS president Shailesh Gupta said.
INS also urged the government to withdraw five per cent customs duty on newsprint.
The losses already incurred have had very severe repercussions for the 30 lakh workers and staff who are directly and indirectly involved in the newspaper industry -- journalists, printers, delivery vendors and many others, said INS, which represents over 800 newspapers.
According to INS estimates, newspapers provide direct and indirect employment to almost nine to 10 lakh people and over 18-20 lakh people respectively.
"For the last several weeks, due to the above severe losses and choking of cash flows, the newspaper establishments are finding it very difficult to even disburse salaries to employees and payments to their vendors," said the letter dated April 20.
"In our various communications we have requested for withdrawal of five per cent customs duty on newsprint. Newsprint cost accounts for 40 to 60 per cent of the total cost for publishers. The removal of the five per cent customs duty on newsprint will have no impact on domestic manufacturers or any 'Make in India' efforts," it said.
INS also urged the government to provide two year tax holiday for newspaper establishments, 50 per cent increase in advertisement rate of Bureau of Outreach and Communication and 100 per cent increase in budget spend for print media.
It called for immediate settlement of payment towards all outstanding bills of advertising, from BOC (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity) as well as various state governments.