No 'Neta' in govt ads: How will it impact print sector?

SC's recent judgement on banning use of images of any politicians except PM, President and Chief Justice of India in govt ads could have negative impact on print industry revenues

e4m by Abid Hasan
Updated: May 22, 2015 8:41 AM
No 'Neta' in govt ads: How will it impact print sector?

A few days ago, Supreme Court of India banned the use of images of any politicians except Prime Minister, President and Chief Justice of India in govt ads. The court allowed their images to be used in media but also said, “Even these three personalities will have to approve whether their photos will be there.”

The court highlighted that publishing of photographs of any personalities (other than the above-mentioned) has the potential to create a personality cult. That is why it should not be permitted. It led SC to exempt photos of deceased leaders from its new rules.

The court said, “Advertisements materials should be objective and not directed at promoting political interests of ruling party.”

Government is a big print advertiser. They are the key growth drivers and especially during elections they become the lead advertisers for all the newspapers. With this verdict of Supreme Court there is a  chance it’ll impact print advertising. We ask some publishers on their opinion.

Varghese Chandy, Senior General Manager, Malayala Manorama said, “Initially there may be, but politicians will find innovative ways of beating the system. Regional advertising will also be affected especially since elections are round the corner.”

Last month Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting announced that government has spent Rs 780 crore in the last six months in advertising and out of them Rs 260 crore was for print media. 

Paresh Nath, Publisher & Editor in Chief of Delhi Press and President, All Indian Language Newspaper Association thinks it’s a good move and it doesn’t matter in terms of impact on advertising.

He said, “I endorse the view of no politician in government advertising, it should only use government information and this judgement covers this. In my view it’s a good thing because government advertising was only going to a handful of newspapers and not to 7500 newspapers present, merely 25-30 newspapers.  If it impacts print advertising in general, it’s alright.”

He added, “As a President of Indian Language Newspaper Association, I was very angry that the government only uses 25 -30 newspapers; language newspapers were denied and there was a selective view. I think it is a good thing that government money should be used to communicate with the public about their work and not personalities. There has been a monopoly of handful of newspapers but after SC judgement, advertising pie will be evenly distributed in print.”

The Supreme Court judgement said, “A connected facet of the matter which cannot be ignored is the power of the Government to give/award advertisements to selected media houses and the concomitant issue of freedom of press. Award of advertisements, naturally, brings financial benefit to the particular media house/newspaper group. Patronization of any particular media house(s) must be avoided and award of advertisements must be on an equal basis to all newspapers who may, however, be categorized depending upon their circulation. The D.A.V.P. guidelines do not deal with the said aspect of the matter and hence the necessity of incorporating the same in the present directions to ensure the independence, impartiality and the neutrality of the fourth estate which is vital to the growth and sustenance of democracy will have to be weighed and considered by us.”

K K Goenka, MD, Prabhat Khabar feels it’ll impact advertising for sure. He said, “Most of the advertising comes from government and we may see less flow of advertising. He also pointed out it’ll take some time to read it in depth about the judgement and how it is going to impact the advertising scenario.”

Talking specifically about Kerala, Shreyamas Kumar, Director of Mathrubhumi said, “It will not affect in this state because the constituency (Elected MLA) has no role to play in the advertisements. It’s all decided by the specific department and not the politician.”

Jwalant Swaroop, CEO, Sakal said, “In the current political scenario non BJP governments shall find it difficult to advertise if the CM’s picture is not in the advertisement this may lead to drop in the state government ads.”

Offering a different perspective, Mitrajit Bhattacharya, Publisher Chitralekha Group and President AIM said, “More than its impact on print advertising, I have not understood the directive by the honourable court. Why PM but no CMs? State governments are run by constitutionally elected CMs just like the Union government (cabinet) is headed by the PM. So will an Orissa or WB government advertise with the PM's photograph? And why the CJI? I am totally confused. Also I am not learned enough on this subject, would love to know viewpoints of others. Hence I have no clue what the state governments will do....”

It remains a matter of speculation as to how much will this judgement affect print advertising revenues.  It will be interesting to see how the state governments deal with this decision, especially those states where BJP is not in power.

Election Commission has announced that state elections will be held in Bihar during September and October this year. Hindi belt will see a competitive market with no ‘Neta’ advertisements.

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