Publishers seek relief for print media
The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has asked Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman to help print media tide over the covid-induced crisis by removing customs duty on newsprint imports and a stimulus package for the industry, including releasing government advertisements to publications at rates that are 50% higher.
The INS is an independent body that protects the interests and freedom of newspapers and periodicals in India. L Adimoolam, president of INS, who met the finance minister last week, said that imported newsprint did not attract any duty for 65 years. “When the Centre imposed 10% customs duty on imported newsprint, we requested for a reduction and it was slashed to 5% last year. We are now seeking removal of this duty,” said Adimoolam, the publisher of English magazine Health and The Antiseptic, a sister concern of Dinamalar, a Tamil newspaper.
In a letter to Sitharaman, INS said that the industry is reeling under a crisis as both advertisement and circulation revenue have dropped considerably.
“To cut down distribution costs, most have stopped sending newspapers to rural areas where there are less than 50 copies (sold). The rural areas are being deprived of genuine news and they are pushed to depend on the fake news that is widely circulated in social media,” it said, adding that newsprint prices have gone up 20% in the last three months.
Another increase of 10-15% is on the anvil next month. Consultant KPMG has estimated that print media revenues will contract by 38% in FY21, compared with the previous fiscal, buffeted by Covid-linked economic contraction.
“The print media industry needs the removal of customs duty on imported newsprint. This will help manage costs,” Jayant Mammen Mathew, executive editor of Malayala Manorama Co., told Mint.
Mohit Jain, executive director at Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd and vice-president of INS, said that the local mills do not manufacture sufficient newsprint and its quality does not match that of imported newsprint; so, newsprint of 42gsm and below should be exempted from anti-dumping duty as it is not made in India.
The INS note also adds that the government should consider hiking the rates it pays for advertisements (through the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity) by 50%.
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