‘Urgent need to explore new rev models, cost-cutting measures, reinventing content’

Mohit Jain, the outgoing president of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), said there was an urgent need to explore new revenue models, effective cost-cutting measures and, most importantly, to reinvent and improvise content for readers.

Speaking at the 83rd Annual General Meeting of INS, Jain said that the growth of the Indian newspaper industry will depend on newspaper publishers’ futuristic and strategic thinking in terms of modernization, technology adoption and capacity building in relation to their workforce and reach.

Jain pointed out that the newspaper industry faces its biggest challenge amid geopolitical events and rising inflation. “Against the backdrop of recent geopolitical events around the world, we have witnessed significant changes in the economic landscape of our country and the world at large. Without a doubt, this is the most challenging test we have ever faced to add that the darkest hour is always before dawn,” he added.

He also stated that the newspaper industry must remain united in these challenging times. “We should continue to stand united, strong and determined to bring authentic, verified and trustworthy news to the readers of this great nation that sets us apart from other media.”

He mentioned that the government had announced a number of reliefs, but newspaper publishers had not received any relief in terms of publishers’ economic viability.

“According to government data, inflation is now under control and that is indeed encouraging for all of us. However, these indicators have not yet resulted in a significant increase in demand for newspapers/magazines across the country. It is relevant to note that the continuous increase in raw material prices and other related costs has affected the bottom line of the print media industry,” he said.

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According to Jain, the print industry needs to prioritize quality and credible journalism as advertisers are starting to prefer associating their brands with credible news sources, which is a positive trend.

Below are the key activities of the INS in 2021-22 as outlined by Jain:

9th Rate Structure Committee: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting established the 9th Rate Structure Committee and in this respect data/information/comments were collected from the Society. Your company has submitted a detailed explanation to the Ministry stating that the current formula for setting CBC rates (formerly BOC/DAVP) does not capture all the costs and variable costs associated with newspaper production. From this platform, I call upon the I&B Ministry to sensitively analyze and consider the economic viability of publishers in India, taking into account the current inflation and GDP situation, before issuing the final recommendation of the 9th Rate Structure Committee.

Tariffs on Newsprint: The Indian printing industry is also suffering from the double whammy of newsprint shortages and on the other hand prices for imported as well as domestic newsprint have risen to an all-time high which has resulted in a huge financial strain on publishers. In view of the serious crises in the newspaper industry due to the impact of COVID-19, digital media, shortage of newsprint, price increase and devaluation of the rupee affecting the price of imported newsprint, I call on the government to stop the remaining ones withdraw 5%. Customs on imported newsprint.

IT Rules, 2021: As you know, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were promulgated on 02/25/2021 by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology. The matter is still pending before the Honorable Supreme Court of India. The court has ordered a stay of all proceedings challenging the IT regulations and the cable television amendment regulations pending in the country’s various high courts. Your company is monitoring the proceedings and, if necessary, will hear the court in due course.

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Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2022: A draft of the amended Registration of Press and Periodicals (RPP), 2022 Bill to replace the existing PRB Act of 1867 has not been made available to stakeholders for comment. However, her company took note of this suo moto and contacted the ministry to share the draft “Press and Magazine Registration (RPP), 2022” law.

CCI investigation into Google: The print industry faces stiff competition from social media giants like Google and Facebook, which defy the traditional definition of media. Your company has filed a complaint against Google with the Competition Commission of India (CCI). Alphabet Inc. (parent company), Google LLC, Google India Private Limited, Google Ireland Limited and Google Asia Pacific Pte Ltd were found to allegedly abuse their dominant position in the Indian online news media market. It has been highlighted that the producers/publishers of news provided in digital format are not getting fair value for their content, despite having invested heavily in creating suitable content for the customers searching for news using the Google platform. The CCI, after examining the Company’s allegations, determined that these allegations of abuse of dominant position prima facie fall within the scope of the Competition Act 2002 and that a detailed investigation is required.

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Investigation of “Anti-Competitive Practices by Big Technology Companies” by the Standing Parliamentary Finance Committee: The Parliamentary Standing Finance Committee invited the Society to discuss the issue of “Anti-competitive Practices by Big Technology Companies”. It was also mentioned that a background note on this matter could be provided for the information of their members. Accordingly, your Company has submitted a detailed notice to the Additional Director of the Standing Parliamentary Committee on Finance of the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

Comments on TRAI Consultation Paper on Media Ownership: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a Consultation Paper on Media Ownership issues and stakeholders have been invited to comment on the Consultation Paper. Your Society has submitted its detailed comments to the Authority clarifying its claim that since the beginning of this issue the Society has firmly held that TRAI has no jurisdiction or authority to issue the Consultation Paper on Cross Media and Restrictions on Ownership It should not Limit cross media ownership in the industry.

Indian Press Challenges: Although the press is considered one of the pillars of democracy, there are instances where the press in India faces difficulties. Injunctive relief and defamation lawsuits are some of the common forms of censorship. The Society has raised such issues from time to time and has urged the authorities to take strict action on these matters in order to ensure the safety and security of the press.

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