COVID-19 period has dealt a Rs 4,500-cr loss to newspaper industry so far: INS
That the print media industry has been under tremendous pressure due to the COVID-19 crisis and the resultant nationwide lockdown would be an understatement. Even before the lockdown, people had been terminating their subscription of newspapers due to fear of the paper carrying the Coronavirus and hence, bringing the infection inside people’s homes. Newspaper organisations addressed this with a slew of campaigns affirming that the newspaper was safe and also highlighting the high level of hygiene maintained during the production process.
The initial days of the lockdown resulted in cessation of delivery of newspapers across the country, which was later resumed in phases.
The hit on ad revenues can be gauged with the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) sending out a circular to all the ad agencies, cautioning them that “payments received against Print bills should be paid to Publications and not diverted to other media like Radio and TV”.
INS asked all ad agencies to upload MRV/01-2020 details as per practice, that is, from April 11 to 15, 2020. “Please note that whatever payments are made, should be paid to all Publications on pro rata basis against all bills,” INS stated.
In April this year, INS also wrote to the Government of India, seeking its support to deal with the surmounting challenges faced by print media with the COVID-19 crisis at hand. Print media is under assault from all directions with distribution bottlenecks due to COVID-19, high cost of importing newsprint and shrinking advertiser support.
In the letter addressed to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Shailesh Gupta, President, INS and promoter of Dainik Jagran, urged the Minister to remove the 5 per cent import duty on newsprint to ease the burden on the print media players.
In its latest communiqué, INS has reiterated its demand for a strong stimulus package, stating that the country’s newspaper industry is faced with a loss of almost Rs 4,500 crore in just two months since COVID-19 cases surfaced in India.
With tremendous pressure on the economy and business operations almost at a standstill during the lockdown period, it is a long road to recovery even as the severe restrictions are being lifted from large areas of the country under the Green Zones from May 4, 2020. The INS communiqué further state that there is not much scope for advertising activity to pick up any time soon and hence, newspaper industry losses would continue over the next 6-7 months. According to INS, the industry was staring at a loss of Rs 12,000-15,000 crore, unless the industry received a stimulus package on an urgent basis.