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ABP raises cover prices of its Bengali dailies

A weak rupee has raised cost of imported newsprint but E Bela's competitor Times group's Ei Samay is not yet raising prices

Digbijay Mishra  |  Kolkata 

Media behemoth ABP Pvt Ltd, which runs The Telegraph English daily and Anandabazar Patrika Bengali daily, has decided to raise cover prices of its Bengali daily and newly launched E bela tabloid. While the tabloid is now priced a rupee higher at Rs 3, Anandabazar Patrika will be sold at Rs 5 on weekdays from Monday.

The price increase comes in the wake of the rupee’s fall against the dollar that has made importing newsprint costlier. Forty per cent cost of any newspaper is accounted for by the newsprint, said D D Purkayastha, managing director and chief executive officer, ABP Pvt Ltd. The print media imports over a million tonnes of newsprint a year.

India’s biggest media house by turnover, Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd, which runs The Times of India and recently launched the Ei Samay Bengali daily, is playing it safe and not increasing its cover price as of now, according to a circulation official of the group. A Times of India insider said the group was holding on to the current price primarily for fear of losing circulation. The cover price of Ei Samay was slashed by almost half to Rs 2.50 in April to compete with market leader Anandabazar Patrika. The Hindu, run by Kasturi and Sons Ltd, has also increased prices in select markets.

Terming the current economic gloom worse than India’s 1991 financial crisis, Purkayastha said, “This is inevitable. All successful Bengali dailies would eventually have to raise prices, because newsprint has become way expensive as the rupee continues to be feeble,” he said. Sounding concerned about the dip in circulation of E bela, he said, “When the economy is in such a state, it is least likely that people would subscribe to multiple papers. If needed, one might have to cut down on the number of pages going forward.” E bela has a circulation of 300,000 copies, he said.

Advertisers, the key source of revenue for most media companies, are also having to pass through a rocky road as are continuously squeezing their spending on advertisements. The Times of India has already raised its rates for advertisements in the paper. Many dailies and magazines have been cutting on the number of pages recently and a number of magazines have shut shop. ABP group’s Businessworld business magazine is also on the block. The Outlook group also decide recently to shut three magazines — Geo, Marie Claire and People.

According to Purkayastha, a revival in the industry is unlikely before 2015 and revenue growth would remain pressure, which is likely to result into a muted annual raises for employees. It is no different at television channels. Network 18 laid off about 500 people a month ago, while NDTV Profit also went under massive restructuring. The 12-minute ad cap an hour regulation is also giving them a tough time.

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First Published: Tue, September 10 2013. 00:42 IST