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I&B secy writes to ministries over payment of dues to media houses

April 16, 2020 05:54 AM
COURTESY HT APR 16
I&B secy writes to ministries over payment of dues to media houses
 
 

Amandeep Shukla

Amandeep.shukla@htlive.com

New Delhi : Union information & broadcasting (I&B) ministry secretary Ravi Mittal 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 ~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 ~224 crore.

According to information available with HT, 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 -- HT 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,” he said.

“As you would appreciate, these media houses are 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.

Mittal wrote his letter days after the Indian Newspaper Society communicated to 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.

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