I&B ministry frames new policy for govt ads in newspapers

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The government will now check the circulation figures of newspapers and periodicals and verify them with the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) or Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) before releasing official advertisements to them, a new print media advertisement policy released on Friday said. The new system is aimed to bring transparency and accountability in the release of government ads.

The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry said in a statement that newspapers with a circulation over 45,000 copies per publishing day must be certified by the ABC or RNI in order to be considered for empanelment by the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP). DAVP is the nodal agency of the Indian government for advertising on behalf of various ministries, departments, public sector units (PSUs) and autonomous organizations funded by the government.

“The policy focuses on streamlining release of government advertisements and to also promote equity and fairness among various categories of newspapers/periodicals,” the statement said.

The RNI circulation certificate will be valid for two years and existing ABC certificates will be treated as circulation certificates. ABC is a non-profit body that measures and audits newspaper and magazine circulation in the country.

For circulation of up to 45,000 copies, a certificate from a cost/chartered accountant or from a statutory auditor or ABC would suffice, the statement added.

The ministry has divided newspapers into three categories—small, medium and big— on the basis of their circulation. Publications with a circulation below 25,000 copies will be considered small, those between 25,000 and 75,000 copies will be medium and those above 75,000 copies will be considered big.

The policy also says PSUs and autonomous bodies can directly issue advertisements to empanelled newspapers at rates fixed by DAVP.

Across multiple editions of a newspaper, each edition will be required to have a separate registration number and RNI will treat each edition as a separate entity while verifying the circulation of a newspaper for empanelment. If copies of one edition of a newspaper are printed from more than one centre and if the content of newspaper is different, then they will be treated as different editions.

DAVP will consider not just the newspaper circulation, but also aspects like the number of pages in a newspaper, printing press ownership, annual subscription payment to Press Council of India, subscription to news agencies and provident fund subscription for employees before it empanels a newspaper for releasing government ads. DAVP will release advertisements on the basis of marks obtained by each newspaper in the aforementioned areas.

A rate structure committee will stipulate the structure for payment against the advertisements released by DAVP. The policy framework also details the premium that will be paid by DAVP for prominent placing of ads in newspapers and journals whose circulation is certified by ABC/RNI.

Rajyavardhan Rathore, minister of state at the I&B ministry did not respond to calls and text message for comments on the new policy.

Pawan Chopra, a former I&B secretary welcomed the new policy. “It is really good on the part of the government to frame the policy in this manner, which is more transparent as compared to the past, provided DAVP is able to implement this,” he said.

In an effort to promote equity-based regional outreach, the government said that the budget for the release of advertisements across the country will be divided among states based on the total circulation of newspapers in each state and language.

“The policy also mentions relaxation in empanelment procedure to provide special encouragement for regional language/dialects small and medium newspapers, mass circulated newspapers (with circulation greater than one lakh), newspapers in north eastern states, Jammu and Kashmir and Andaman and Nicobar Islands,” the ministry said.

According to data from DAVP, till 29 February in 2016 (for the year 2015-16), the central government spent Rs.842.89 crore on publicity, out of which Rs.402.79 crore was spent on print media advertisements, while Rs.353.31 crore was spent on electronic media advertisements.