I&B Minister assures broadcasters of Government support in providing relief
Members of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) had round of discussions with Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar yesterday (May 1, 2020), where they raised various concerns of the broadcast industry. According to industry sources, the IBF members who took part in the video conference included Uday Shankar, Aroon Purie, NP Singh, Rajat Sharma, and Punit Goenka.
In a letter to the I&B Minister in April this year amid the COVID-19 crisis, IBF had sought the Government’s support to deal with the economic crises in the TV broadcast sector. In its letter to Javadekar, IBF had made the following requests:
- Regulatory moratorium for the sector for at least next 18 months.
- Phased resumption of production activities.
- Extension of moratorium period for GST payment.
- Mandating Digital Payments of Subscription and Advertising dues to Broadcasters.
- Advisory to DPOs in respect of release of payment of subscription fees for the period up to February 29, 2020
- Waiver of Processing Fee and Temporary live uplinking fee for live sporting events for a period of one year from the resumption of normal business activities.
- Increase in time period of one year to two years for operationalisation of new channels which have been granted permission.
- Suspension of requirement of Performance Bank Guarantees in respect of channels sought to be launched for a period of one year.
- Waiver of Carriage Fee due to Prasar Bharati for 3 months (April, May and June) for FTA Channels on Prasar Bharati’s Free Dish Platform.
- Deferment of payment due to Prasar Bharati for Free Dish carriage by March 31, 2020 be deferred until July 2020.
- All pending refunds even exceeding Rs. 5 Lacs should be urgently processed.
- The 1st instalment of advance tax (due on 15 June 2020) should be done away with and taxpayers be allowed to pay the 2nd instalment (due on September 15, 2020) directly without any interest liability.
- The due date for deposit of TDS for the months of March and April 2020 should be extended to May 31, 2020 without any interest liability.
- Extension/ waiver of permission for FX payments for foreign satellite transponder hiring.
- Lower rate of TDS from 10% to 2% on subscription revenues
- Payment of stamp duty on agreements should be deferred up to expiry of 90 days from the date of lifting of nation-wide lockdown.
- Allow discharge of GST reverse charge obligation through GST input credit rather than paying in cash.
- Extend all existing stay of income tax demand for next 6 months without any new hearing.
In a separate communiqué to Javadekar, Rajat Sharma, President, News Broadcasters Association (NBA), had requested the Minister to announce a stimulus package for the broadcast media, which included:
- Increasing the rates of BOC/ DAVP advertisements by 50%;
- Substantial increase in budgetary allocations of all Ministries/ Departments and organisations of the Government of India for dissemination of information/ communication relating to COVID-19 pandemic by BOAC/ DAVP through private satellite TV channels for its widest reach to all sections of the society.
- Clearing outstanding dues of BOC/ DAVP pending since 2010. These dues amount to Rs ~64.5 crore. The outstanding dues for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, as reported by the members, is approximately Rs 8.6 crore.
Earlier in January 2020, IBF had also expressed its shock and dismay with the latest notification from TRAI issued on January 1, 2020, amending the new tariff order (NTO) and interconnection regulations. As per the new amendments, TRAI has reduced the cap on the MRP of individual channels, which can form part of any bouquet, to Rs 12 per month, from the earlier cap of Rs 19. The regulator has also sought to impose twin conditions for bouquet formation, effectively introducing a cap on bouquet pricing, which was left untouched in the NTO.
Javadekar assured broadcasters of Government corporation and support in four critical areas in the video conference:
- Allow broadcasters to resume shooting of TV shows
- Disburse dues owed to broadcasters
- Speak to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on the suspension of implementation of New Tariff Order amendments (NTO 2.0) until the cloud of crisis has passed from the sector.
- Address concerns of broadcasters on TRAI consultation paper for BARC India
The I&B Minister stated that for TV production to resume in Maharashtra, the Central government must get the approval of Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray as the State is worst hit in the pandemic. TV production in other states can resume by 4 May he added.