A three hour-long closed-door meeting was held between senior members of the media entertainment industry and government officials on January 25 at the Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry. Apart from the secretary at I&B Ministry, three joint secretaries attended the meeting, which also saw participation from over 30 media representatives.
The meeting resulted in the communication of certain apprehensions from the industry regarding the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). It was argued that the government should keep the tax rate under GST in the low band range to avoid any adverse effect on the media. An editorial published recently in The Times of India hinted at tough times for newspapers if the tax rate was to be increased under GST.
“Worse is to come if taxes are raised under the GST regime, if the damaging two-month impact of demonetisation persists in this quarter and the next,” said the editorial. Times Group’s Managing Director Vineet Jain had tweeted shortly after calling for “zero rating GST to avoid print industry from getting sick” in the forthcoming years.
Another point of discussion was in relation to the lack of legal clarity concerning the digital space. At present, both the Ministry of Information Technology and Ministry of Information & Broadcasting maintain control over the online world.
Last year, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting had clarified that while news came under the purview of MIB, anything that is online concerns Ministry of Information & Technology. Formulation of a regulatory body to maintain watch over the content of television channels was also brought up.
A source informed exchange4media that there is a long-standing tradition of holding such a meet since it enables dialogue between the industry and government. It was learnt that a few executives were unhappy with the lack of material benefit arising out of these conversations but the source added that it was a necessity.