Ensure fairness for newspaper industry

26 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Many of us can recall the times when there was a rush among family members of a household for the daily newspaper arriving early in the morning. There were competitions among the young members of the family as to who will be the first to read their favourite pages of the daily newspaper. In most traditional households during our childhood days, the head of the family always had the first claim on the daily newspaper and afterwards the rest of the family would get it in order of seniority. Those were the golden days of the print media before the internet gradually started eating into the popularity and profit of the daily newspaper. 

The printed newspaper is facing challenges from the electronic news media as well as the internet based news portals, which are faster in reaching the readers but lacks the permanence, reliability and accountability of the printed daily. News and views that are published in print are more or less indelible. As a result, editors of the print media are more cautious about the authenticity of the material that is published in their daily or weekly newspapers. Therefore for the sake of reliable news, survival of the print media is essential. The responsibility for this falls on all the stakeholders of the world of news, views and entertainment.  

The greatest responsibility in this regard falls on the government to save the print media from near about extinction. Therefore, the Newspaper Owners' Association of Bangladesh (NOAB) has justifiably asked the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to reduce the 30 per cent of import duty and value added tax (VAT) on newsprint and the 35 per cent corporate taxes for the sake of the newspaper industry’s survival. It is unrealistic to expect that the newspaper industry can survive let alone thrive for long under such burdensome taxation. 

On the other hand, the government is being deprived of around Tk. 25.20 billion in revenue annually from four plus crore subscribers of television channels. The NBR can relieve the newspaper industry by realising the gaps in revenue collection by obtaining a fair share of it from the cable operators by ensuring their introduction of digital distribution. The revenue from the subscription fees of local and foreign channels in exchange for their contents can substantiate the tax reduction on the newspaper industry.