National

Union Ministries owe ₹147 crore to newspapers for ad campaigns

A man reads a newspaper which has a full-page advertisement by the BJP in front. File | Photo Credit: RAJEEV BHATT
Priscilla Jebaraj NEW DELHI: 25 July 2021 18:40 IST
Updated: 26 July 2021 10:08 IST

Oldest unpaid bill dates 17 years ago

The Centre owes more than ₹147 crore to various print media outlets as payment for government advertisements, according to a recent response to a Right to Information (RTI) query made by law student Aniket Gaurav. In fact, there are more than 76,000 outstanding bills for print media campaigns pending with the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP), the oldest of which dates as far back as 2004.

For electronic media, the pending amount is ₹67 crore, while the unpaid bills for outdoor publicity amount to almost ₹18 crore.

Mr. Gaurav, a first year law student at Meerut University, said he had sent the query as he was concerned about the number of newspapers which were being shut down. “As a reader, I feel that the major reason for any newspaper shutting down would be because of loss of revenue. As government ads constitute a large part of revenue, so I thought I should find out whether the government is paying for its ads on time, and which Ministries have unpaid bills,” he said. “I was shocked to find that there are ads which have not been paid for 17 years.”

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The RTI response from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting provided data on the outstanding bills that Central Ministries owed to the DAVP, which in turn pays media organisations for running advertising campaigns. The largest pending amounts for print media come from the Defence Ministry, which has 12,271 unpaid bills worth more than ₹16 crore, followed by the Finance Ministry, with 6,668 unpaid bills worth ₹13 crore. The information is updated until June 21, 2021.

“The date of the oldest outstanding payment/bill related to ad campaigns pending with DAVP is 04.08.2004,” said the Ministry’s response.

For context, the total pending amount of ₹147 crore is higher than the ₹118 crore “commitment” made by the government to all newspapers during 2020-21, as well as the ₹65 crore actually paid out as “expenditure” for print ad campaigns during the same period, according to data available on the DAVP website.

With regard to electronic media, the Ministry said a full list of the number of outstanding bills was not readily available, nor were records maintained regarding the date of the bills. However, the information available regarding pending payments to electronic media indicated that more than ₹67 crore is yet to be paid to TV channels, with the Department of Road Transport and Highways responsible for the largest unpaid bills.

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