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President Speech at AGM

Presidential Address :-

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Executive Committee of the Indian Newspaper Society I extend a very warm welcome and thank you all for having taken the time to come to the Garden City of Bangalore to attend the 79th Annual General Meeting of your Society.

I have had the privilege of being your President and thank each and every one of you for giving me that honour.

INS has been protecting the interests and furthering the causes of its 833 members, comprising of small, medium and big newspapers and magazines.

The Annual Report of the Committee has been made available to all of you. It contains the summary of developments concerning the newspaper industry, as well as affairs of your Society over the last one year. Still, I seek your indulgence to elaborate on a few issues that were eventful.

The Print industry in India continues its growth story despite its decline in other developed economies, with increasing circulation and readership making it the largest market, globally. This development is seen primarily in more vernacular consumption than for the English language with publishers focusing specially on local needs. This thriving market for Indian print houses is credited to the cultural significance of taking the written word more seriously and the availability of morning paper delivery to households every morning. India's growth on the economic front is an added advantage and it is believed that the growth of newspapers in our country is directly related to urbanisation and continued growth of literacy rate leading to higher aspirations.

The year gone by has been a year of challenges, the profit margins of newspapers across the country have eroded due to declining growth of advertising revenues, stiff competition from other media, a steep increase in the cost of newsprint, introduction of GST at 5% on the advertising revenues of the print industry for the first time, the FDI limit remaining at 26% thus restricting access to foreign print players Shortage of Newsprint due to systematic reduction of gloal newsprint manufacturing capacity and market factors have created steepest newsprint shortage in years. The print industry is facing headwinds with increasing newsprint prices which is because of the increasing raw material cost and China imposing a ban on imports of paper waste, in its campaign against environmental pollution and hence has become a net importer. Publishers have seen a spike of 40 to 50% and scarcity and price increase poses a major challenge to the industry. As long as the commodity imported satisfies the definition of 'newsprint' restrictions with respect to roll width should be dispensed with. There should be no width criteria in newsprint definition of Customs, and it should be removed as the actual users entitlement to import are governed on the basis of RNI Eligibility Certificate.

However, the medium continues to be relevant, and we all need to take steps to energise print media. There is also an urgent need for innovation and transitioning to the needs of the younger generations to continue staying relevant. This year, the Society has taken up the several issues like Tender Advertisements, PSU Advertising at DAVP rates, Interim increase in DAVP rates, Updation of Readership Profile, FDI in Digital Media Companies and Print Media Advertisement Policy with the Government.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has integrated three departments -- Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), Directorate of Field Publicity (DFP) & Song and Drama Division (S&DD). This merged entity is called as Bureau of Outreach Communication (BOC).

The Government vide its Advisory in respect of tender advertisements for procurement of goods and services, had done away with the need for publishing tender notices in newspapers and replaced it with mandatory e-publishing of advertisements on Central Public Procurement Portal (CPPP). However, your Society had taken up the matter with the Ministry and vide an Advisory dated 14.06.2018 it has been stated that the Administrative Ministries / Departments are free to decide on the advertisement of the tender notices in newspapers based on the merit of the case, and the earlier Advisory issued by BOC stand withdrawn. In spite of insistence by BOC on furnishing readership details, the Society, impressed upon the BOC, that the information pertaining to "Readership Profile" is not readily available with every publication, and hence cannot be furnished.

INS sees no justification in PSUs and Autonomous bodies which are undoubtedly commercial and profit making organizations releasing their advertisements at DAVP rates, which are specifically for promoting social service and public education campaigns of the Government. The matter of interim hike in DAVP advertisement rates has been taken up with the ministry of I & B. It was impressed upon the BOC that with sharp escalation in input costs a rate hike is justified. I am pleased to inform that a New Rate Structure Committee has been formed and the recommendations and award should follow in the coming months. The Society has voiced its concerns to the Ministry of I & B in respect of the provisions in the Print Media Advertising Policy of the Govt. of India 2016 regarding furnishing ABC/RNI certificates for 45000 copies and above is not reasonable, as many members are not members of ABC and the PIB offices are not well equipped to handle this work. Therefore, it was requested to accept certification by Chartered Accountants who are empanelled by CAG or RBI or CA's empanelled by the Regional Council of Indian Institute of Chartered Accountants.

At this crucial juncture, I appeal to the Government to do away with constituting the Wage Board mechanism for determination of wages for journalists and non-journalists employees in newspaper establishments, as it goes against the very grain of free markets. There is no rationale for persisting with such Boards for Print Media. There is no other industry which is governed by wage boards set up by the Government. It must be left to the management of the individual establishments. The Honourable National Green Tribunal in a recent judgement upheld that tax on Advertising cannot be levied.

The true test of a robust democracy is the independence of its media. Freedom of expression has always been emphasised as an essential basis for the democratic functioning of a society. India's vibrant media remains the most free in South Asia. However, of late there has been an increase in the number of attacks and murders of journalists, besides defamation cases against media has also gathered momentum as well. I call upon the Government to sternly deal with such situations and ensure security and protection to the Press and thereby ensure free and fair reporting.

The Renovation and work on the Fighting System of the INS building, New Delhi is in progress. An Electrical & Structural Audit of the INS Building was also undertaken during the year.

The work at INS Bombay Building Project is progressing well and offices are shortly expected to be ready for occupation. I greatly appreciate the trust and patience that you all have shown.

As I look back, my term as President of our Society has been satisfying and I would like to place on record my sincere gratitude and thanks to Deputy President Mr. Jayant Mammen Mathew, Vice President Mr. Shailesh Gupta, and Honorary Treasurer Mr. Sharad Saxena, Chairpersons/ Chairmen of all Regional Committee & Sub- Committees and of course all members of the Executive Committee for their support during the year. I will also fondly remember the wholehearted support I received from all members of the Society, which made it possible to accomplish what we all jointly set out to achieve during the year.

As I conclude my term as a President, I take this opportunity to specifically thank Mr. H. N. Cama and Mr. Naresh Mohan for their invaluable guidance and support.

I also gratefully appreciate the hard work put in by members of the Staff at the INS Secretariat headed by the Secretary General Mr. Lav Saksena.

Thank you once again for giving me an opportunity to lead the INS and through it, the Print Media Industry in the country.

Akila Urankar