Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 8
The proposal by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to impose a two-year ban on media advertisement by the government and public sector undertakings has come under attack with the Indian Newspaper Society expressing 'disbelief' and condemning the suggestion.
“Such a proposal tantamounts to financial censorship. It is a very small amount as far as government spending is concerned, but it's a huge amount for the newspaper industry, which is essential for any vibrant democracy, and is struggling to survive’’, INS president Shailesh Gupta said in a statement.
Print media is the only industry which has a wage board and the government decides how much the employees should be paid. This being the only industry where market forces do not decide salaries, the government has a responsibility towards the industry. Further, in the age of fake news and distortion, it is the best platform — for both the government and the Opposition — to get news and views directly across to the people in every nook and corner of the country, he said.
Pointing out there was already a decline in advertisement and circulation revenue due to recession and the digital onslaught, he said: “We now face severe financial crisis due to the complete lockdown of industries and business. At a time like this when media personnel are risking their lives and bringing news on the pandemic situation, the suggestion of the Congress president for a two-year ban on media advertisements is deeply disturbing and demotivating for the entire media industry’’, he said.
The INS appealed to the chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party to reconsider and withdraw the suggestion made to the PM in the interest of a “vibrant and free Press”.
Defending the suggestion, Congress MP and spokesperson Manish Tewari said the idea of rationalisation in the day and age of digital media by moving government and PSU advertisements like public notices to e-portal to cut wasteful expenditure was under consideration even during the UPA government.
Tewari, who served as Minister of Information and Broadcasting in the Manmohan Singh government, said according to a study done during the time of 10 top print medium newspapers, it had been found that the revenue from government/PSUs did not constitute more than 10 per cent of the total revenue they earned.
Print medium, he said, would have to find a way of surviving without depending on government support, pointing out that it was the small and medium newspapers, especially the vernacular press, that hugely relied on such support.
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