In the wake of the lockdown and financial constraints being faced by broadcasters, the News Broadcasters Association on Monday asked the government to waive off the fee for slots on DD Free Dish for the auction winners for the first quarter of the financial year and charge 50 per cent in the next quarter.
The DD Free Dish caters to about 30 million households. It has slots for 80 channels, out of which 26 slots are reserved for Doordarshan-run channels and the remaining 54 slots are open for bidding by private channels.
The NBA is an association exclusively of round-the-clock news broadcasters in India. It has 27 broadcasters as its members representing 77 channels.
In a letter to Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, NBA president Rajat Sharma said due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the expenses of news gathering operations has shot up significantly.
“There is huge pressure from advertising agencies to defer the payment to broadcasters and to allow more time over and above the 60 days credit period; the recovery of bills is going to be hugely challenging, while facing an even bigger task of almost zero or negligible income in the next 30-90 days,” Sharma said.
He said in order to overcome the crisis, the NBA had earlier sought the support of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, asking for deferment of payment due to Prasar Bharati for Free Dish carriage fee on March 31 till July 2020 and a concession of 90 days on the carriage amount of Free Dish.
“We are now given to understand that the successful bidder of 44th e-auction for carrying TV channels on DD Free Dish has been given an alternate payment plan whereby the payments due are now to be made by 27.6.2020,” he said in the letter.
“The same covers the first three instalments and is subject to furnishing a bank guarantee of an equivalent amount (valid upto July 31, 2020) and upon payment of interest amount at 5.70 percent per annum and GST on interest amount,” Sharma said.
“Since the alternate plan suggested by Prasar Bharti in the present circumstances is not financially feasible, we request that for the quarter April, May and June 2020, DD Free Dish be given free to all auction winners i.e. no payment and for the quarter July, August and September 2020 – only 50 percent of payment and balance 50 percent to be waived off,” he said.
He added that in case normalisation is not reached by the end of June, the NBA will approach the I&B ministry for further concession.
It may also be kept in mind that the news genre has been recognised as an “essential service” in various government circulars and advisories and also by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech to the nation, Sharma said.