Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) advocates for due supports to the Indian newspaper industry, which is facing an exceptional crisis because of the Covid-19 pandemic affecting both of its circulation and advertise revenues since March 2020, but with the condition that every media group would pay their employees according to the concerned wage board guidelines endorsed by the Supreme Court of India.
It may be mentioned that the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has urged the Union government to announce a stimulus package for the newspaper industry as it faces a loss of around Rs 12,500 crore in the last eight months. As a result many of the publications have either shut down or suspended some of their editions indefinitely and ‘if this situation prevails, many more will be compelled to close their operations in the near future’, asserted the owners’ association.
“One can well imagine, the downfall of the fourth pillar of the world’s largest democracy will have severe socio-political repercussions, as well as affect its 30 lakh workers and staff, who are directly and indirectly involved in the newspaper industry as journalists, printers, delivery vendors and many others,” said INS chief L Adimoolam adding that the newspaper industry was putting in ‘its best efforts to bounce back and now looking forward to the government to provide the much needed stimulus package’.
Arguing that the newspapers continue to play a vital role in the dissemination of verified & factual news in these challenging times, the INS also urged the government to remove residual 5% customs duty on newsprint, provide two years tax holiday, 50% increase in the government advertisement rates, 200% increase in the government spend on print media and immediate settlement of outstanding bills of advertisements released through various government agencies.
“We too urge the government to seriously look into the crisis faced by the newspaper industry, but like to remind the INS that most of the large print media houses in the country still disobey those SC approved guidelines relating to the salaries and other benefits of their employees,” said JFA president Rupam Barua and secretary Nava Thakuria adding that the Centre, which accepted the Majithia Wage Board recommendations in 2011 itself, should take the note.
The forum also appealed to the government to enact specific laws relating to the salary and other legal benefits for media employees engaged with the satellite news channels and prescribed digital media outlets across the country. Otherwise, the coverage of the Majithia Wage Board (now confined to journalists and other employees belong to newspapers and news agencies) can be expanded to other electronic media outlets as well.