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Sonia Gandhi’s suggestion to ban government ads draws criticism across media

Reacting to Gandhi’s statement, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has said that such a proposal tantamount to “financial censorship”, while the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has said that stopping of government ads on TV will kill the sector.

ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Apr 09, 2020, 11.51 PM IST
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In fact, advertisement bookings have nosedived by almost 50%.
Mumbai: Leading media associations have reacted sharply to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s statement suggesting suspension of all government advertising for two years in the wake of Covid-19 crisis.

It was one of the five suggestions that the Congress president had proffered to PM Narendra Modi in a letter while urging him to step up the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reacting to Gandhi’s statement, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has said that such a proposal tantamount to “financial censorship”, while the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has said that stopping of government ads on TV will kill the sector.

Gandhi wanted a two-year ban on all advertising by central and state governments as well as PSUs.

At a time when Indian media sector is struggling amidst the Covid-19 crisis as corporates have stopped or postponed advertising, government advertising could provide crucial breathing space to Indian media companies.

Some associations want Gandhi to withdraw her statement.

“It is a very small amount as far as the 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 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.”

INS has appealed to Gandhi to reconsider and withdraw the suggestion made to the PM in the interest of a “vibrant and free press”.

In another statement, IBF said it is deeply saddened by Gandhi’s suggestion and this act would be a death knell for the media companies.

“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,” the IBF statement said.

IBF has maintained that with the closure of cinemas, the complete cessation of production of films and television shows, cancellations of live sporting events and consequent cancellation of scheduled advertisements and delays in payments by advertising agencies and distribution platform operators, the media and entertainment sector is already facing the brunt of the slowdown.

In fact, advertisement bookings have nosedived by almost 50%.

The Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI) has also “strongly opposed” Gandhi’s statement and requested her to review and withdraw her suggestion. “Radio has been wholeheartedly supporting the national war on Covid-19, through 380 private FM stations across India. We request the government to restore its advertising on radio to normal levels,” said Uday Chawla, secretary-general, AROI, in his letter.
(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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