Ashish Bagga, president of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), on Tuesday expressed the apprehension that the Union Cabinet's decision to accept the recommendations of the Majithia Wage Boards may lead to the closure of a majority of small and medium newspaper publications, as the proposed wage hikes are very high and beyond the industry's paying capacity.

Mr. Bagga cautioned that even large publications would find it difficult to implement the hikes and said: “It is indeed unfortunate that the INS' request for re-examination of the flawed and one-sided report has not been considered by the government.”

He pointed out that a number of petitions challenging the Working Journalist and Other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1955 and the Majithia Wage Boards recommendations are before the Supreme Court; the government's decision would be subject to the Supreme Court's final order.

“After the recommendations are published, these petitions may be amended if required,” the INS chief added.

Mr. Bagga said the Fourth Estate is under threat of losing its well-nurtured fabric of plurality of ownership, and the situation created by the government's decision would throw up a clear possibility of media power getting consolidated in the hands of a few. This, coupled with the danger of large-scale retrenchments as a consequence of the possible closure of many newspaper establishments, not only pose a threat to the Fourth Estate but could also lead to job losses.

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