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COVID-19 Impact: NBF calls immediate measures to overcome business crisis

The News Broadcasters Federation, the largest trade organization that represents the combined interests pertaining to the news broadcasting industry, on Monday, sought the immediate intervention of the Government of India, to overcome the larger economic, social, financial and business impact arising out of the combat measures and lockdown initiatives across the country that threatens the survival of the news television channels.

The news broadcasters serve as an influential, public awareness and emergency communications system to get information on the doorsteps of the common citizens across the length and breadth of the country. The 24- hour news cycle is the most contextual and relevant medium to draw public attention to the issues and provide key safety messages in the shortest time to the public at large.

The Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, during his televised address to the nation, on March 19, 2020, equated the news broadcasting sector in line with Essential Services, and the address to television channels on March 23, 2020, are crucial acknowledgement of the important role of news broadcasters in rendering public service in such a critical situation which the nation is facing currently.

In the memorandum presented to the Prime Ministers’ Office, Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Finance, GST Council, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, and Department of Telecommunications, the News Broadcasters Federation, sought the government intervention to combat the financial and business impact on the News Broadcasting Sector.

To overcome the financial impact the News Broadcasters Federation has requested the government to relax and offer tax concessions including lowering GST rates and filing dates, postponing the deadline for TDS payments, for at least a minimum period of three months, until June 30, 2020. The federation has also asked the government to waive off the fees for news channels on DD Freedish platform for the month of March and April 2020. The NBF has also sought extension in deadlines for compliance, since employees handling regulatory issues are currently working from home.

“The News Broadcasters Federation strongly stands and supports the Government of India’s proactive measures to combat spread of COVID-19 virus, which has posed a health and economic threat to the country. This extraordinary situation required the government to take extraordinary measures to save the news broadcasting sector that performs a public service for free. Else, we perish,” said Arnab Goswami, President, News Broadcasters Federation.

The memorandum comes in the wake of the wake of the measures taken to combat spread of COVID-19 virus, the news broadcasters are facing slowdown of business operations and severe shortfall revenue as it has curtailed the flow of advertisement which is the largest source of revenue for FTA news broadcasters. The measures have also severely impacted cash flows due to lower collections of payments since clients are also scaled down their business operations. At the same time, the operating costs on connectivity and communications have tremendously increased due to the lockdowns while ensuring the safety of employees.
About News Broadcasters Federation:

News Broadcasters Federation, the largest-membership driven organization of news broadcasting fraternity operating across the length and breadth of the country. NBF is founded and funded by the television channels and digital news outlets in almost every single language and region of India, who keep the citizens abreast on the latest developments even from the smallest cities and towns. Our member broadcasters deliver news and information to more than 100 crore viewers from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and Gandhi Nagar to Guwahati, through a network of over 100,000 journalists and employees.

The News broadcasters constitute the single largest genre consisting of 45% of the 885 private satellite channels, as permitted by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. According to the report ‘What India Watched 2019’ by BARC, News television viewership (viewing minutes) by 38% during the same period. In 2019, news broadcasters witnessed a 23% growth in viewing minutes, garnering 9.2% of the total television viewing - the highest ever share in the last four years. Significantly, children below 14 years contributed 6% of viewership for news channels. However, the advertising volume had decreased by 32% in 2019 alone, impacting the viability of news broadcasters. The news broadcasting sector constitutes about Rs6,000 crores to the country’s economy and provides employment directly and indirectly to about a million people.


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