The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) on Monday announced that it has sought assistance from the government to handle the economic crisis in the broadcast sector that has emerged due to the COVID-19 situation. IBF in a letter to the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar has put forward 18 requests which includes financial and regulatory flexibility. Further, IBF has submitted a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in its response to the government notification on “Print and Electronic Media including broadcasting, DTH and cable services” as one of the “Essential Services.” NP Singh, president of IBF said that the SOP will help the sector to move quickly to normalcy and is positive that the government will consider it in the sector’s favour.
IBF Seeks Economic and Regulatory Flexibility to Battle COVID-19 Challenges
IBF in its letter to Javadekar have requested for phased resumption of production activities and mandating digital payments of subscription and advertising dues to broadcasters. Further, a waiver of processing fees and temporary live uplinking fee for live sporting events for a period of one year from the resumption of activities was also requested by IBF.
Additionally, IBF has requested an increase in time period from one year to two years for operalization of new channels that have been granted permission.
“The outbreak of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have posed several challenges for the Television Broadcast Sector,” Singh said in a release. “With complete cessation of production of television shows, cancellations of live sporting events and scheduled advertisements, advertisement bookings nosediving by ~50%; delays in payments by advertising agencies/advertisers and distribution platform operators, the Broadcast sector is facing the brunt of the slowdown.”
In terms of the financial flexibility, IBF requests include extension of moratorium period of GST payment. IBF has also requested that the first installment of advance tax should completely be done away and that taxpayers should be allowed to pay the second installment directly without any interest liability. The first installment of advance tax is due on June 15 while the second installment is due on September 15.
“The Broadcast Sector is seeking a stimulus package from the Government in the form of economic relief and regulatory flexibility so that all Broadcasters especially the smaller businesses can be helped to get back on track,” Singh said.
IBF said that the broadcasting business has been hit on both the demand and supply side that has resulted in “existential crisis” for many of its members.
IBF Submits SOP to Accelerate Broadcast Sector Return to Normalcy
Further, IBF highlighted the government’s notification on broadcasting, DTH and cable services as one of the “essential services” during the COVID-19 lockdown period. IBF said that with the employees unable to go to work due to commute restrictions and with the production schedules halted, “providing uninterrupted” content has been a challenge to broadcasters.
“IBF has submitted a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on prevention/safety measures for organized, safe and sustainable re-start of Content Production, Media Operations, Transmission and General Office Operations in the TV Broadcast Sector to the PMO, Niti Aayog and MIB,” Singh said. “The SOP will help the sector to move quickly towards normalcy and we certainly hope that the Government would consider it favourably.”
Additionally, IBF has said that directions from the ministry of home affairs (MHA) has not been “percolated” to district officers which has resulted in employees of the sector facing hurdles in commuting.
“This needs to be urgently looked at by the respective State Governments to ease out the operations after strictly following the Standard Operating Procedures as envisaged in the IBF Submission to the Government and also other stringent measures undertaken by the Central and State Governments,” IBF said in its release.
Earlier in the month, IBF said that the media and broadcasting industry cannot claim immunity from the COVID-19 situation and that the advertisement bookings are down 50%. Further, IBF said that any decision by the government to curtail budgetary allocation will sound the death knell for the sector especially for the regional and smaller channels.
“We will resist any such move by the government to undercut revenue for government advertising as many of our member channels will lose substantial revenues and will be compelled to shut down resulting in massive job losses,” IBF said in a release in early April. “At this critical moment when the nation stands united to deal with the aftermath of Covid-19 outbreak, we request all parties to give a thought for the media sector which is known for its neutrality and objectivity.”