Sumantha Rathore

DAVP asks for balance sheets; media houses cry foul

Media companies, in a directorate given by the DAVP, have been asked to submit their balance sheets to substantiate their circulation claims.

The latest directorate, given to the media companies by DAVP (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity), has asked media companies to submit a copy of their audited balance sheets for the financial year 2010-2011, along with income tax returns, in case the annual turnover is more than Rs 60 lakh, by September 30.

As per the directorate, media companies applying for the renewal of rate cards will have to submit their balance sheets within the stipulated time period in order to substantiate their circulation claims. It is learnt that DAVP has made it compulsory for every newspaper company seeking a revision of rates.

DAVP asks for balance sheets; media houses cry foul
About the inclusion of the balance sheet for the renewal cases and the brouhaha surrounding it, K S Dhatwalia, additional director general, DAVP, says, "Since there are many frivolous media companies operating, this is just to keep a check on that, and to find out if the print media companies are filing appropriate returns, so that we know the facts and not just rely on statements given out by them. There is no need to worry about anything for the publishers."

He further adds, "My only concern is that there are vested parties/people who are misguiding certain sections of the media. It is my request to everyone, however, that they should not pay heed to the rumours, rather they should clarify it with us."

This latest addition in the renewal form has not gone down well with the media companies since most of them are private companies, and their balance sheets are fiercely guarded. It is learnt from reliable sources that while some of the top privately-held print companies have decided to refrain from submitting their audited balance sheets to the DAVP, and will play the wait-and-watch-game, others are still figuring a way out.

A senior executive from a well-established daily says, "DAVP needs this for the smaller companies, which exist only on the papers, but they manage to extract money from them. It doesn't make sense for an established player like us to substantiate our circulation claims."

However, a media observer, on conditions of anonymity, points out that whatever anomalies are there in the media today, the government has been aware of it from the start. So, why have they taken action so late? "Basically, the government of India wants to arm itself against the negative media reportage, so that in the future, whenever there is negative reportage by a particular media company, it (the government) will use the information in the balance sheet as a weapon to arm twist or gag them (the media owners)," puts forth the media observer.

The conflict between DAVP and media companies has been going on for long, and circulation claims and counter-claims have been a matter of confrontation for years.

For the record, expenditure by DAVP, in terms of advertisements, in the print media, for the financial year 2009-10 was worth Rs 244.13 crore. DAVP is the nodal ad agency for the Government of India. As per policy, all the ads for the central government ministries and departments have to be routed through DAVP.