Covid-19: A syndicate of Free-to-Air broadcasters demand waiving of Prasar Bharti’s fee

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on April 27, 2020

A syndicate of free-to-air broadcasters have sought relief in the form of a full carrier fees waiver due to Prasar Bharti for the first quarter of the financial year, and 50 per cent for the second-quarter, for channels who have secured MPEG-2 slots on Prasar Bharati’s free dish platform during the recently held 44th E-auction.

Commercial advertisements being the sole revenue stream for free-to-air channels, they are struggling to deal with a steep de-growth, and the biggest impact is on advertising revenues that are likely to see a 70-80 per cent pullback, the broadcasters said in a statement.

“Amidst the national crisis, when the whole nation is under a lockdown and people are staying indoors, the only source of engagement is a television and in this the role of free-to-air TV, particularly for the poorer sections of our society, is immense and thus its commercial viability and sustainability must be taken into consideration,” it noted.

At the end of March, each FTA member had reached out to DD Free Dish with a certain request of waving carriage fees for a quarter (April, May and June) owed by them in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. In response to this, they received a letter dated April 7, 2020, offering a deferred payment schedule instead of the waiver of three months’ outstanding payments sought for, and that too with a provision for furnishing a bank guarantee (valid up to 31.07.2020) of the equivalent amount, it said.

Availing the said relief has been subjected to interest levy at 5.7 per cent per annum and GST on the interest amount, it added.

“The aforesaid relief would not serve the purpose at this juncture, but instead, put additional hardships on the company in terms of bank guarantee charges, interest payments and GST amounts with effectively no relief on the total carriage fee payments,” it explained.

With business coming down to 10-15 per cent of the normal monthly business amid the pandemic, their request requires “a lot more sympathetic consideration”, it said.

“They are also paying all salaries on time to ensure the livelihood of hundreds of people, as responsible corporate citizens of this nation, upon the request of our Prime Minister. If this continues like this, they will not be in a position to meet the HR expenses leading to mass layoffs,” it added.

Published on April 27, 2020

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