The News Broadcasters Federation, India’s largest industry association representing the
combined interests of more than 300 TV news channels, has sought an e-meeting with I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar to apprise him of the pressing issues the industry is facing due to the lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19, and has sought a comprehensive stimulus package for news broadcasters. It has also shared detailed inputs on the measures and concessions it seeks that will help energize the deeply stressed news broadcasters struggling with keeping their operations up and running at one of the most stressful times in living human memory.
The finance minister must fast-track most if not all NBF requests
The NBF inputs to the Minister Javadekar actually clearly spell out all the problems that the news broadcasters are facing. Most if not all deserve to be promptly fast-tracked by the minister. In fact, even at this time, there can be no excuse as of ‘other pressing matters’ for the I&B Ministry to put the NBF requests on the back burner, because the role of news and information that each member channel of the 300-strong NBF is providing to millions of Indians across the length and breadth of the country, is critical to the success of the Indian government’s concerted battle against COVID-18. News broadcasters are facing oppressive constraints that threaten the very survival of many news channels, especially those in the regional markets Under no circumstances can that be allowed, and the responsibility to ensure they receive government support through concessions and special initiatives rests firmly with the ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
The issues NBF wants to discuss
The issues NBF wants to discuss during the e-meet with Javadekar, are Satellite and bandwidth charges, Prasar Bharti and DD Freedish, pending payments from DAVP, support from the government for news broadcasters during these testing times, the unrestricted availability of FTA News channels, and liquidity issues being faced.
Arnab Goswami, Jaggi Mangat Panda, Shankar Bala, SanjivieNarain, Kartikeya Sharma, Riniki B. Sharma, R. Jai Krishna, and Eshita will comprise the NBF delegation for the e-meet sought.
The stimulus package sought by NBF
Here, unalloyed and without interpretations, is what NBF has shared with the Finane Minister
Satellite and bandwidth charges
FTA news broadcasters had switched over from foreign satellite network to INSAT for C band space segment capacity for our Broadcasting requirements, to support the Government of India’s initiatives on developing our own space sector. We switched over to despite the higher price we need to pay for Indian satellites as compared to hosting on foreign satellites.
- As Satellite and bandwidth charges form a significant part of operational experience, relaxation by waiver of bandwidth charges of INSAT satellite from 1 April, 2020 at-least till 30 September, 2020.
- Also, kindly issue an advisory to Satellite Communication Program Office (SATCOM PO), under DOS, not to suspend satellite services for at least six months until September 30, 2020 for any reason whatsoever.
- Issue an advisory to all satellite operators to waive the bandwidth charges from 1 April 2020, at-least till 30 September 2020.
- Issue an advisory to teleport operators to charge up to the limit of Rs 25,000/month per channel to be calculated on actual as their operational cost.
- Issue a memo for uplink charges to be reduced to 75 percent and 6 months moratorium for broadcasting service.
- Relax and offer concessions like waiver of WPC and NOCC charges till September 30, 2020
Prasar Bharti and DD Freedish
Key FTA news broadcasters had participated in the recent auction of slots to be available on DD Direct, betting on the extensive reach and future financial projection by being available on free dish TV platform to reach news viewers across the country.
In these difficult times, to stay operational all of us as independent channels are facing with a major spike in our operating costs , apart from severely impaired advertisement income, which is the only source of revenue.
The stoppage of all public transport network has significantly added to our transportation cost, required for ferrying over 80% of our critical employee base across India, apart from sanitation and safety gear related expenses- all of which is completely unexpected. As responsible News Channels our members would like to play our part as responsible journalists, to ensure accurate and timely dissemination of critical information.
This effort requires consideration and support by your office, Prasar Bharti to facilitate force multiplying the Central and State Government’s fight to contain the Pandemic.
In this regard, we kindly request the following –
- As news broadcasters discharge new, updated and expeditious essential information, kindly provide complete waiver of carriage fee charges on DD Direct for a minimum period of six months.
- Provide facility to existing FTA news channels already on the platform to pay in monthly installments from October 1, 2020, after deducting the charges from the security deposit with Prasar Bharati DD, on pro-rata basis.
DAVP pending payments
FTA News broadcasters had offered lucrative prices to DAVP for its publicity through news channels. However, the payments for the advertisements released through DAVP has been pending for more than a year now. Industry estimates peg the payments at over Rs1500 crore. In this regard, we kindly request,
- DAVP money that is outstanding to be released immediately,
- Else this amount should be adjusted with TDS, over period of time.
FTA news broadcasters have seen a surge in viewership in the past few weeks since the Government of India announced lockdown of the country. Moreover, a very recent series of reports by Nielson and BARC on TV and Digital Video consumption during the COVID crisis has revealed that news channel viewership has increased by 251% across all languages, a historic record for the news broadcasting industry. The report also clearly establishes that viewers are searching for maximum news through various news channels instead of limiting themselves to few.
To strengthen the cash flow situation at a time when private industries / sectors have cut down on advertising, we kindly urge
- To consider news broadcasters as a preferred medium for disseminating public awareness campaigns/ information / publicity during the period of Combat Covid-19 spread, to be considered as CSR activity as clarified by Ministry of Corporate Affairs through its General Circular No. 10/2020 dated 23.03.2020.
- To advice Public Sector Undertakings/ Enterprises to utilize their unspent CSR funds in combating COVID-19 campaign.
Unrestricted availability of FTA News channels
FTA News broadcasters have been categorized under “Emergency Services” and have been performing a public service since the lockdown was implemented from March 24, 2020. Citizens across India have been glued to television news right from early morning until late night to know authentic and reliable information about the COVID-19 measures taken by the government and authorities, despite increased costs of operations during this crisis situation. To ensure and assure free, fair and uninterrupted 24X7 News Broadcasting service to the public, we request your office to
- Issue an advisory for carriage of FTA news channels under the “mandatory carriage” rules, without any carriage or related fees by all the distribution platforms for a period of at least six months until September 30, 2020.
- Ease and relaxation the compliance requirements for the FTA news channels for at least three months, until June 30, 2020, since most of the employees handling critical regulatory/ compliance issues are expected to be working from home.
- Issue an advisory to distribution platform continue the channel availability with reference to the status as was on March 19, 2020 until September 30, 2020.
FTA news broadcasters are now facing a headwind on all sides – increased costs of operations, lower revenue due stoppage of advertisements due to lockdown and ensuing supply chain issues. To improve the liquidity situation, prevent any job losses or impact on operations as a public service, we humbly request
- News broadcasting sector to be accorded with ‘industry status’ in line with print media, for us to avail loans from banks and financial institutions at a preferred rate.
- Advise RBI to relax the rules for availing commercial loans to TV Channels from banks with minimum rate of interest.
- Allow a moratorium for minimum of 6 months, until September 30, 2020, for the existing loan payments.