GUWAHATI, March 5 - The newspaper houses of Assam are facing crisis because of the failure of the State Government to release the payments against the advertisements on time. The repeated assurances given by senior officials from time to time in this regard remained on paper only. Moreover, the assurances on revising the rates of advertisements and formulation of a new advertisement policy are yet to be implemented, which raised doubts on the sincerity of the Government on these issues. Even an order by the Gauhati High Court in this regard has not been implemented by the State Government.
Another major problem that the newspaper houses are facing is that the outstanding bills of some departments including PWD, offices of the Deputy Commissioners, etc., are forwarded by the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) to the concerned Departments for making the payments. But the concerned Departments sit over the bills for years and never bother to ensure that the payments are made on time. That is why, the newspaper houses have been demanding introduction of a centralized payment system like the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, but that has also not yet been done.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal held a meeting with office bearers of the North East Newspaper Society on the issue on February 22, 2018 and assured to centralize the payments, make payments within 60 days, revision of rates of advertisements every year and clearing of all the outstanding dues. Though one year has passed since the meeting, the assurances remained on paper.
From time to time, senior officers of the Assam Government held meetings with the representatives of the newspaper houses and made tall promises, which, unfortunately, remained on paper. Moreover, the rates of advertisements have not been revised for quite some time despite the assurance given by the Government to revise the same every year. Interestingly, the rates offered to the newspapers having headquarters in places like Delhi and Kolkata are much higher than the rates offered to the newspapers published from within the State. The rates offered to TV and Radio are also much higher.
On February 26, 2018, in a meeting chaired by the Media Adviser to the Chief Minister, it was decided that the newspapers would submit statements of the outstanding dues so that funds could be obtained from the Government to clear the same. Accordingly, the newspapers submitted the same, but the Government failed to clear all the dues. Similar meetings were held subsequently but the decisions and assurances remained on paper and the newspapers were not benefitted.
Additional Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjoy Krishna chaired a meeting with the representatives of the newspaper houses on December 14, 2018 and assured that the Government would soon come out with a new advertisement policy. But the assurance is yet to be fulfilled. The meeting also discussed other issues like payment of the outstanding bills, enhancement of the advertisement rates etc but as usual, the discussion did not yield any desired result.�
It may be mentioned here that the Press Council of India had also expressed concern over the failure of the Central and State Governments to ensure timely payments of the advertisement bills of the newspapers.