In tune with the Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti’s commitment with the representatives of various Editors’ Forums, the Directorate of Information today released Rs 9.58 crore the Joint Director Information Kashmir and Jammu for payment of advertisement bills of the newspapers and periodicals including clearance of previous liabilities.
With the fresh releases, the cumulative funds released by the Directorate of Information during the current fiscal on account of advertisement budget have touched Rs 26.41crore.
“We are expecting additional funds to the tune of Rs 2.52 crore from the Finance Department under advertisement budget for this fiscal to enable us clear both the past liabilities and the current year’s bills so that the Department can enter the next financial year with zero liability,” Director Information, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said. He added that around Rs 1 crore was also released to District Information Offices for various media-related activities.
The Director Information said that the Department has expedited payment of advertisement bills keeping in with the commitment of the Chief Minister made in this regard during her meetings with the representatives of various Editors’ Forums. “We are thankful to the Chief Minister, the Finance Minister and the Financial Commissioner/Secretary to Government Information Department for their unflinching support in this regard,” Dr Shahid said.
He said the Department is already in the process of putting in place a plan of action for the next fiscal to ensure release of payment on account of advertisement bills to the newspapers and periodicals on monthly basis. “As the Government has already released 50% of allotted budget for the financial year 2017-18, it should enable the Department to make payments to newspapers/periodicals regularly in the next fiscal,” he said.
Pertinently, the liabilities on account of official advertisements had piled up since 2012 and accumulated to the tune of around Rs 12 crore due to various reasons, including discrepant advertisement distribution which was non-commensurate with the available resources.
In Kashmir division, the issue of liabilities assumed a peculiar dimension especially because of the devastating floods of September-2014, as almost all the records of the office of the Joint Director Information Kashmir including the advertisement bills of the newspapers and periodicals were destroyed in the deluge. In a time-consuming process, the Department had to take up a fresh exercise to get duplicate bills from the newspapers and periodicals and process the same afresh for release of payment.
Pertinently, the representatives of various Editors ‘forums in the State had recently raised the issue of clearance of advertisement liabilities with the Chief Minister, Ms Mehbooba Mufti, Finance Minister, Dr Haseeb Drabu, Financial Commissioner Information, Mr B B Vyas, Director Information, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary and other concerned pressing for early release of payment on account of the liabilities to the concerned newspapers and periodicals.
The Editors’ bodies had also called for putting in place an apt mechanism for classification of approved newspapers and periodicals as per Section-3 and Section-3.1 of the Advertisement Policy-2016 for transparent and judicious distribution of government advertisements among these publications.
“We had a series of meetings with the Editors’ bodies recently, where the need for rationalising advertisement distribution by the Information Department was repeatedly stressed so that all the empanelled newspapers and periodicals get their due share of advertisements on merits of each publication in a judicious and transparent manner,” said Dr Shahid who recently took a detailed review meeting in this regard in the office of Joint Director Information Kashmir.
“We are trying our best to ensure that the newspapers and periodicals are not put to any inconvenience on account of release of advertisements and payment of advertisement bills,” Dr Shahid said and added that various tangible initiatives have been taken of late to ensure utmost transparency in distribution of advertisements and regular release of payments to the newspapers and periodicals.
He said the Department has already asked all the empanelled newspapers and periodicals to provide updated details including latest circulation figures for updating the records and facilitating their classification as per the guidelines laid down in the Advertisement Policy-2016. He said the information is being collected to set defined criteria for classification of newspapers/periodicals for allocation of advertisements. “Unfortunately, there was no such mechanism in place in the Department earlier,” he said and added that 368 newspapers and periodicals, including 201 in Jammu and 167 in Kashmir, are presently empanelled with the Department of Information for release of official advertisements and under the new criteria-based classification all these publications would get assured advertisements as per entitlement.
The Department has an annual advertisement budget of around Rs 30 crore which is expected to go up to Rs 45 crore during the next fiscal, following a sizeable 50% hike in the advertisement rates for newspapers and periodicals announced by the Chief Minister on the floor of the house during the Budget Session of the State Legislature.
The Director Information said that the Department is also in the process of formulating a separate advertisement policy for electronic and online media, given their vast expansion in the state over the years.