Leaders of the Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh (NOAB) yesterday met Salman F Rahman, the private industry and investment adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to discuss challenges and potentials of the country’s newspaper industry. The leaders said they had a fruitful discussion with Salman F Rahman, also an MP, on various burning issues during a greeting-exchange ceremony at Beximco office at Gulshan in the capital.
The NOAB leaders told Rahman the whole newspaper industry in Bangladesh is undergoing a downward spiral, as is happening elsewhere in the world. The leaders expressed concern over the fact that the circulation and income of the newspapers are going down, with the income from advertising having plummeted 15 percent in the last two years.
Drawing attention to the high rate of corporate tax on the newspaper industry, NOAB leaders said newspapers are an industry according to the Labour Law 2016. In addition, it was declared a service industry in 2014. While the garments industry pays a corporate tax of 10 to 15 per cent, they pointed out that the newspaper industry is subject to 35 per cent tax.
Regarding the payment of income tax, they said newspapers have to pay income tax of the working journalists and others, but this contradicts the Income Tax Ordinance of 1984 where every person, including the prime minister and other ministers, pay their own tax.
About the grades of newspapers, the leaders said under the wage board’s recommendations, newspapers have had only five grades over the past few decades for journalists. This low number has made it difficult for papers to implement it. NOAB leaders also wanted the three-yearly leave to be brought on a par with that of government servants.
The leaders also discussed the issue of press workers. They said as most papers now outsource printing, press workers’ pay allowances should be deleted from the consideration of the wage board.
The NOAB also expressed concern about the huge pressure on newspapers caused by different marginal benefits such as technical allowance, eye risk allowance, chemical poisoning allowance, outfit allowance and clothing and laundry fees. They said that many of these are not required now under modern technology and these need to be removed from Wage Board recommendations.
The leaders greeted Salman F Rahman on his appointment as the private industry and investment adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Rahman assured the NOAB leaders that the prevailing problems of the industry would be resolved after discussions with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
NOAB president and Daily Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman, prominent industrialist and Samakal publisher AK Azad, The Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam, Daily Manabzamin chief editor Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, Daily Bangladesh Pratidin Editor Naem Nizam, New Age publisher Shahidullah Khan Badal and The Independent editor M Shamsur Rahman were present on the occasion.