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Secy of I&B writes letter to other ministries over payment dues to media houses

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(G.N.S) Dt. 16

New Delhi

As per reports from media sources, Ravi Mittal- Secretary of Union information & broadcasting (I&B) ministry has written to his counterparts in other ministries and requested them to pay up the amount owed to media houses (for ads), citing the financial pressure they are in on account of the ongoing lockdown.

Various Union government ministries owe at least Rs 400 crore to media companies. Mittal’s intervention came on April 11, days before the 21-day lockdown imposed late last month was on Tuesday extended till May 3 to check the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of the total amount, 12 ministries owe around Rs 224 crore.

According to information from different media sources, the letters were sent to the ministries of telecommunications, sports, youth affairs, the departments of posts, electronics and IT, and the NITI Aayog, among others.

In his letters to the secretaries — as media sources has seen some of the letters — Mittal cited the media’s role in supporting the government’s efforts in dealing with the pandemic while highlighting that their “financial health” was turning from bad to worse. “Newspapers have cut down their pages to unprecedented levels with many merging weekend supplements into the main edition[s]. Despite these measures, newspapers are losing money. Similarly, the FM Radio sector is also under stress due to low advertisement and stoppage of transport,” Mittal said in his letters.

Mittal underlined that it is of vital importance that all payments due to the private media sector are made to enable them to pay their employees, keep their businesses afloat and prevent layoffs. “As you would appreciate, these media houses are also supporting the government’s efforts to communicate with its citizens during the current crisis arising due to COVID-19,” he wrote.

Most ministries issue advertisements through the I&B ministry’s Bureau of Outreach and Communication (BOC) ,which was formerly known as the Department of Audio Visual Publicity. After the publication of advertisements, the BOC receives payments from the concerned ministries for disbursal.

The Union health and finance ministries have pending bills worth over Rs 81 crore. Other ministries that also owe substantial money to media houses include rural development, labour, human resource development, agriculture, tourism, and road transport and highways.

Mittal wrote his letter days after the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) communicated to Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on March 24 that while newspapers were going beyond the call of duty to spread awareness in the face of the global pandemic, they were in grave danger of turning sick.

“You can imagine the devastating impact of these closures on the hundreds of employees and their families as well on the larger ecosystem including suppliers, printing presses, distribution mechanisms including newspaper vendors and delivery boys, etc,” lNS said in a letter, a copy of which was seen by different media sources.

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