Jammu, Mar 27: Department of Information today said that there has been a decline in government advertisement flow due to enforcement of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) following announcement of bye-election schedule by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to the two Parliamentary Constituencies in Kashmir.
Responding to a news report published in today’s edition of daily Alsafa News regarding dip in advertisement distribution, the Director Information, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said that despite drop in advertisement flow, the department is trying to maintain a judicious balance in release of advertisements to the empanelled newspapers and periodicals as per the guidelines laid down in Advertisement Policy-2016 to ensure adequate financial support to these publications.
Giving details, Dr Shahid said in January 2017 advertisements aggregating 188423 Col CMs valuing Rs 1.05 crore were released by the office of the Joint Director Information Kashmir to the empanelled newspapers and periodicals in the said division, while in February 2017 advertisements aggregating 164606 Col CMs valuing Rs 91.91 lakh were issued witnessing a drop of around 23817 Col CMs. He said with the enforcement of Model Code of Conduct, the advertisement flow further went down this month as only 60570 Col CMs valuing Rs 3236846 were issued till 15th of this month.
The Director Information said the Government has, during the past two years, taken various measures to ameliorate the financial health of all the categories of newspapers in the state by providing adequate advertisement support. “Besides announcing 50% hike in advertisement rates this year, the Government has substantially hiked the advertisement budget from Rs 22.20 crore in the financial year 2015-16 to Rs 28 crore for the current fiscal,” he said and added that this excludes the advertisements of Public Sector Undertakings and Autonomous Bodies issued under Non-Budget head which amount to around additional Rs 5 crore per annum.
Regarding the advertisements issued to Alsafa News, the Director said that in tune with the newspaper’s relevant category, as per its circulation, reach, get-up and other parameters, the Alsafa News has been allocated 15170 Col CMs advertisements valuing Rs 860139 during the 11 months of the current financial year – from 1 April 2016 to 28 February 2017. “A payment totalling Rs 1598497, including Rs 727685 on account of current year’s advertisement bills and Rs 861812 on account of past liability has been released till date to the Alsafa News during the current financial year,” he said and added that as per the report provided by the Joint Director Information Kashmir while Alsafa News is empanelled as a multi-colour newspaper with the Information Department, however, in clear violation of the Advertisement Policy-2016, the newspaper has published 21 issues during the current month in black and white, while only six issues have been published in colour. He said the violation attracts disqualification of the said newspaper from the particular category, it is presently enlisted in and the Joint Director Information Kashmir has been asked to initiate the necessary action in this regard.
Dr Shahid said, as has been pointed out in the said news report, the Department of Information recognises the fact that “for any newspaper in the State to survive the government advertisements are a must.” He said the Department, in consultation with various Editors’ Forums, is continuously working towards streamlining the advertisement distribution process and a comprehensive and transparent mechanism is being put in place by categorizing the empanelled newspapers/periodicals in various categories, in tune with the guidelines laid down in the Advertisement Policy-2016. “The new mechanism would not only do away with the present discretional system of advertisement distribution, but also ensure assured and regular flow of advertisements to all the empanelled newspapers and periodicals, whether big or small,” he said and added that the new system would especially help the small newspapers who would henceforth get regular advertisements as per their appropriate category.
The Director said that keeping with the assurances given by the Chief Minister, the Finance Minister and the Financial Commissioner Information to various Editors’ Forums, the Department has, this fiscal, cleared advertisement liabilities of the newspapers to the tune of Rs 11.39 crore which were hanging fire for the past 4 years. Besides, he said, the Department has, till date, also released Rs 17.67 crore towards reimbursement of the payment of current years’ advertisement bills.
“We are putting in place a plan of action for the next fiscal to ensure release of payment on account of advertisements to the newspapers and periodicals on monthly basis,” Dr Shahid said adding that as the Government has already released 50% of allotted budget for the financial year 2017-18, it should enable the Department to make the payments to newspapers/periodicals regularly on monthly basis in the next fiscal. “However, in this regard I would also seek the cooperation of the newspaper management who shall have to submit the advertisement bills within set timeframe,” he said.
The Director said that the Department is in the process of formulating a separate and maiden Advertisement Policy for Electronic and Online Media. “The Department has already sought views of the stakeholders on the issue and the draft advertisement policy for electronic media and the online news portals has been submitted to the Government for approval,” he said.
The Government is giving final shape to the guidelines for the operationlization of the Welfare Scheme for J&K’s Journalists for which a corpus fund of Rs 2 crore was earmarked in the Budget 2016-17.
The Department of Information is also in the process of revising the Accreditation Rules in its endeavour to put in place a fair and transparent process for accreditation of journalists, he said.