Noab seeks FBCCI help in fighting Covid fallout
The Newspapers Owners' Association of Bangladesh (Noab) yesterday sought cooperation from the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) to resolve the industry's many challenges stemming from the pandemic's severe fallout.
This was the first-ever meeting between Noab and the FBCCI. Its focus was on the "role of newspapers in advancement of the country, challenges and opportunities of newspaper industry".
During the meet at the Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka, Noab members informed of different problems that they were facing every day and sought solutions from the FBCCI leaders.
The FBCCI asked Noab members to provide better coverage on issues regarding the country's economic development and business community.
After the meeting, FBCCI President Md Jashim Uddin gave a briefing.
He said the newspaper industry needs to be included in the government stimulus package coverage as many newspapers have been going through a tough time from the severe fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Almost all sectors have already received funds from the government-sponsored stimulus packages, except for the newspaper industry which is now struggling to survive.
Even the refrigerator industry received VAT waivers but the newspaper industry still needed to pay VAT despite it being a very vital service industry, he added.
Regarding the high tax rate, Uddin said the garment sector's corporate tax ranged between 10 per cent and 12 per cent but the newspaper industry has been paying 37.5 per cent.
A standing committee on the newspaper industry will be formed with the FBCCI soon so that the challenges can be resolved through discussions, he added.
The FBCCI president sought cooperation from the media, especially newspapers, to overcome the challenges of the country's status graduation to a developing nation from a least developed country in 2026.
Some sectors like that of transport, restaurants, tourism and small and medium enterprises have been severely affected while others, such as food and e-commerce, grew during the pandemic.
"Newspaper as an industry is also a general member of the FBCCI. It is our moral duty to protect the interests of our general members," Uddin said.
"Newspapers are facing a lot of tax, VAT and digital security act challenges. We have discussed all those issues in the meeting," he added.
The FBCCI chief lauded the contribution of newspapers in the country's development alongside independence.
Noab President AK Azad said the newspaper industry had fallen sick in the pre-pandemic period because of a price hike of the basic raw materials it used.
The severe fallout has been aggravating the ailments as the sale of newspapers has fallen anywhere from 24 per cent to 25 per cent during the pandemic.
This is because many readers now do not opt for physical copies of newspapers, instead they prefer digital editions on electronic devices, he said.
And although many industries need not pay import tax, the newspaper industry has been paying 24 per cent in total as import tax despite being a service industry.
This includes a 5 per cent duty and 15 per cent VAT and advanced income tax (AIT), he added.
Azad, also a former FBCCI president, said newspaper offices can retain Tk 6 or Tk 6.50 after deducting hawkers' commission from selling each newspaper for Tk 10.
However, much of that amount remains unrealised as people do not want to pay the money.
Moreover, the inflow of advertisements declined sharply due to the Covid-19 fallout and as a result, many newspapers could not pay their employees in a timely fashion during the pandemic, Azad said.
The newspaper industry has fallen victim to discrimination as Bangladesh Bank has provided stimulus packages for other sectors but not the newspaper industry.
If the government does not provide a stimulus package to the industry, many may lose their jobs and many newspapers may face partial shutdowns, he added.
Azad said such apprehensions has prompted the newspaper industry to seek stimulus funds from the government.
Noab members Mahfuz Anam, publisher and editor of The Daily Star; Matiur Rahman, editor of Prothom Alo; Dewan Hanif Mahmud, editor of Bonik Barta; and Shah Husain Imam, editor of The Financial Express, were also present at the meeting.