A four-day newspaper blackout for readers in Bengal will hit the industry hard with the market pegging losses of Rs 10-15 crore.
A decision by the trade unions backed by the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (Citu) and the Indian National Trinamool Trade Union Congress (INTTUC) not to pick up newspapers for four days from October 21-24 — Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Vijayadashami. This has now forced the major groups including the Anandabazar Patrika (ABP) group and Bennett, Coleman and Co (BCCL), also known as Times Group, to go for a four-day shutdown.
According to market sources, the entire newspaper industry will face a loss of around Rs 10-15 crore. While not confirming the figures or shut down, a senior BCCL official said, “This is a trade issue, we are left with no choice. If vendors are not going to pick up the papers, we are going to see huge loses.”
As per industry sources, during the peak advertising season, while the Anandabazar Patrika and the Telegraph may lose on an average of more than Rs 1 crore per day, the Times of India, Economic Times and Ei Samay may lose on an average of more than Rs 50 lakh per day. However, Dipankar Das Purkayastha, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ABP was not reachable and also did not respond to a text message from Business Standard. This may hit the Times group more as it has just launched its regional language newspaper Ei Samay on Monday. ABP too has launched its tabloid E Bela recently.
While the major groups are holding their card close to the chest on whether to give a holiday or not, language newspapers like Pratidin, 365 Din and Sakal Bela are in favour of the demand, while CPM mouthpiece Ganashakti may even shut shop. Interestingly, the Trinamool Congress-backed Pratidin was the first newspaper to cut short the Puja holidays for newspapers to one day in 1990s, which was followed by others later.
Another leading daily, Bartaman too has already send a letter to its suppliers in Raigunj area that the newspaper will not be available for four days. Meanwhile, Dola Sen president of INTTUC, who came out in support of vendors stating that the chief minister Mamata Banerjee is backing the move, demanded that a tripartite meeting between the government, vendors and managements should happen to solve the stalemate.
“This is a long-standing demand from us. This year also we had informed the newspapers in advance by February. All of them responded to that saying that newspapers comes under the ‘necessities list’. We are not ready for a compromise for an additional commission,” said Binod Gupta, Secretary, Paschimbanga Sambad Patra Bikreta Samiti, affiliated to CITU.
As per Audit Bureau of Circulation figures in July-December 2011, the regional language newspapers sales is around 25,71,861. Leading from the front is Anandabazar Patrika with 12,49,068 copies, followed by Bartaman (5,34,603), Sangbad Pratidin (3,13,000), Aajkaal (1,81,000), Ek Din (1,24,561) and Ganashakti (1,14,257).
On the other hand, the band of English newspapers in the entire Eastern region publised from Kolkata is led by the Telegraph with 5,04,508 copies, closely followed by Times of India with 2,86,037 copies, while the share of other newspapers are marginal.