20 May 2020
New Delhi: The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has told the Supreme Court that the Centre and state governments advertising arms owe between Rs 1,500 crore and Rs 1,800 crore to various media houses going by industry estimates.
In an affidavit, INS told the top court that the financial constraints faced by the media industry were also flagged by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA). The association, in a separate affidavit, submitted before the top court that due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the industry is facing unprecedented financial constraints and has been "extremely severely affected". The NBA contended that no packages or measures have been announced for news broadcasters so far by the government, as the businesses are on the brink of collapse.
"As per various industry estimates, Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) owes between Rs 1,500 and Rs 1,800 crore to various media companies. A large chunk of this i.e. Rs 800-900 crore is owed to the print industry alone. Such amounts have been outstanding for several months and there is little prospect of realizing the same any time soon," the INS said in its affidavit.
The affidavits were filed in response to the notices issued by a bench headed by Justice N.V. Ramana on a PIL by three journalist bodies -- National Alliance of Journalists, Delhi Union of Journalists and Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists. These bodies alleged that the employees, including journalists, were being terminated and steps such as unilateral steep wage cuts and sending workers on indefinite unpaid leave were being taken by managements citing nationwide lockdown.
The INS and NBA both have sought dismissal of the plea of journalists' associations, contending that several news broadcasters are their members and all being private bodies. Therefore, no writ can be issued against them, argued INS and NBA.
The affidavits stated that approximately 80-85 per cent government advertisements have been reduced already and that there is a drop of approximately 90 per cent in other advertising due to the nationwide lockdown.
The INS submitted before the top court that due to lack of advertisements, several newspapers have been forced to drastically reduce their number of pages and newspaper establishments have been forced to shut down physical editions of newspapers because vendors have refused to deliver the copies.
The INS argued that the media sector largely thrives on advertisement expenditure by industries such as FMCG, e-commerce, finance and automobile, and that these sectors have been hit by the lockdown.