The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has issued a statement following Congress Parliamentary Party's chairperson, Sonia Gandhi's calls to the Prime Minister of India to put an end to all advertisements by the various state Governments and PSU's (Public Sector Enterprises) for a period of two years.
The statement supports the Government's advertising and believes that if they curtail their budgets, the media and broadcasting industry would suffer.
"Like other sectors which have been economically impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, the media and broadcasting industry cannot claim immunity. In these testing times, any decision by the Government to curtail budgetary allocation to advertisements carried out by various channels in lieu of government advertising will sound the death knell for the sector and particularly so, for the regional and smaller channels whose overwhelming dependence on Government ads cannot be both overstated and undermined. With the closure of cinemas, the complete cessation of production of films and television shows, cancellations of live sporting events and scheduled advertisements and delays in payments by advertising agencies and distribution platform operators, the M&E sector is already facing the brunt of the slowdown."
The statement added, "Under such a scenario, we will resist any such move by the government to undercut revenue for government advertising as many of our member channels will lose substantial revenues and will be compelled to shut down resulting in massive job losses. At this critical moment when the nation stands united to deal with the aftermath of Covid-19 outbreak, we request all parties to give a thought for the media sector which is known for its neutrality and objectivity'. TV still remains the primary mode of disseminating these messages to the citizens of India and stopping these ads is not in public interest."
This has been followed by a statement from the president of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), Shailesh Gupta. He expressed disbelief about Sonia Gandhi’s suggestion to the Prime Minister for a two year ban on media advertisements by the Government and PSUs.
He believes 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.
He said, "Print 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 don't decide salaries, the Government has a responsibility towards the industry. Further, in the age of fake news and distortion, print is the best platform to get news and views directly across to the people in every nook and corner of the country, for both - the Government and for the opposition!"
He added, "There is already a decline in advertisement and circulation revenue due to recession and the digital onslaught, further to add to the problem 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."