Newspaper industry facing crisis
Special CorrespondentÂ :
Once mighty newspaper industry is now in big trouble owing to declining income, circulation, and challenges arise from digital media platforms.
Besides, high tax on newsprint import has worsened the industry situation further.Â Â Â Â
Observers said, newspapers became a dominant form of news media over the years. But they are now passing through a difficult time due to its crippling finances. To stay above water, publishers have cut jobs, which have resulted in understaffed newsrooms, a thinner reporting team and thus adversely impact on overall growth of the newspaper industry.
Analyzing the current situation of newspaper industry, Rubayet Ferdous, a professor of Mass Communication and Journalism Department at the University of Dhaka told The New Nation that the information age or digital era poses a potential threat to the newspaper industry.
"Readers away from print media supported with free content on digital platform via screen, be it desktop, laptop or android phone, leading to decline in readers number and circulation, resulting in the falling newspaper industry."
On the other hand, he said, the Silicon valley-based new media behemothsÂ Â such as Face book and Goggle attract big audiences and advertisements, and thereby they racked up by high revenues, posing existential threat to print media.Â Â Â Â
Referring to a study, Rubayet Ferdous said that print media across the world die by 2050 because of readers' apathy in subscribing the newspapers. Print media of Bangladesh will also face the same fate.
"Newspaper publishers should adopt innovative idea and focus more on online versions with furnishing updated and breaking news to attract readers and advertisers, otherwise, they will die fast," he added.Â Â Â Â Â Â
"In Bangladesh, only a few print media houses in good shape but rest are struggling. Most of the newspapers are now downsizing their print version and focus more on online version to cope up with the situation," a newspaper publisher told The New Nation on Sunday, preferring anonymity.
He said many media houses can't even pay their employers timely due to their falling revenue income.
As the crisis deepening in the newspaper industry, the Newspaper Owners Association of Bangladesh (Noab) has urged the government to come up with policy support to keep the print media afloat. Â
It also urged the government to exempt duty and waive VAT from newsprint import and withdrwal of the provision from obtaining advance tax payment certificates or vouchers that advertising agencies deduct from the newspapers.
According to Noab, the total cost of imported newsprint stands at 30 per cent -- 5 per cent customs duty, 15 per cent VAT, 5 per cent Advance Income Tax (AIT) and 5 per cent Advance Tax (AT).
"Newsprint and printing account for 70 per cent of the basic cost for newspapers. It is easy for big print media houses to afford the cost. But tax waiver is necessary to help survive small and medium newspapers, Otherwise, the society might lose something valuables as a result of dying newspapers," another newspaper publisher who represents Noab told The New Nation.
He also admitted that flourishing online and digital media platforms have posed a big threat to the existence of the print media.
When asked, the publisher said, a handful newspaper has implemented the government announced the eighth wage-board. And the rest could not do so because their financial position is not sound to comply with the government order. Â
Observers believe that newspapers have traditionally been the only leverage available for the ordinary people to use against any misrule of an apathetic and undemocratic government, the fall in print media industry is bound to be a risk of rule of law and danger for democratic and liberal values.