I don't know if The V reads this blog, but after reading Counterpoint this Sunday I have a sneaky suspicion that he does. I posted the link to the Time article but the piece was also in the print edition and I also made fun of the bailout. You know where our media bosses got a handout from the government.
Though, and really a three - five per cent excise isn't really that much, so the argument that the government will continue to tax the living daylights out of everything is relatively untrue - though I'm sure given a chance Chiddu would have imposed a service tax on journalism as well. The big announcement was the 15 per cent hike in DAVP rates.
With the real estate sector, the cornerstone of print media advertising (along with the Ponytail, a master of the hire then fire school of thought - makes the placements look good) in a tailspin (though the Ponytail obviously carries on undaunted), the papers needed new advertisers. After all the bills of the senior marketing chaps had to be paid.
With business journalists, the ones who brought in the adverts over the past decade being no good anymore, they rolled out the political bureaus. The 15 per cent rise in DAVP rates is also a great way for the 'Hand' to buy positive political coverage. But given that one proprietor is a sitting 'Hand' MP and another was just given a gong, coverage wouldn't have too bad any which way. Well, it will neutralise Jaitley's implants across the media - papers would be loathe to lose the little assured advertising that they have. After all even the herbal quacks who promised that they've cured Cancer/AIDS/Virginity have stopped advertising.
Did the newspaper industry need a bailout in the first place? Well, in a weird sort of way they are just reaping what they have sown. Think about it, there was no logical reason for papers to be priced at the levels they have been priced. Even before newsprint prices climbed through the roof, the advent of the 120-page daily spectacular (in Mumbai - Times of India + Mumbai Mirror + Bombay Times + Local Supplement + Sponsored Supplement + Classifieds easily crossed 120 pages on a regular basis) meant that printing prices were going through the roof.
The concept of the free flanking product meant that prices spiralled further out of control. The cheaper ad rates in the 'flanking products' often meant that the main paper/magazine lost out on revenue. These pricing decisions were decided not by editorial folks, but those in management. Sure, there was wildly irrational hiring, lazy bums got paid huge amounts of money just to make sure they didn't join another 'proposed' paper. And fair enough, staff costs have to be cut. But will paper owners bite the bullets and raise daily prices to more sustainable levels? A copy of the NYT still costs $1 (Rs 50) and that is not an inconsiderable sum of money. But should a daily - loaded newspaper in India continue to cost Rs 2 - 2.50? I have a feeling that the Rs 5 newspaper isn't very far away.
Oh, and about the Internet - the sites of every major paper in India are so horrible, that they all need a rebuild. Save DNA perhaps.