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Budget 2024: Indian advertising and media leaders outline key expectations

The interim budget, also referred to as the Vote of Account, is not typically associated with major policy changes.

As Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman gears up for her fifth Budget presentation on February 1, the Indian advertising and media sector is eagerly waiting to see if it will fulfil expectations. The presentation of the interim budget, often referred to as the Vote of Account, comes ahead of elections and is not typically associated with major policy changes. However, industry experts are optimistic that the government will bring in some key policy decisions that will help stimulate economic growth and benefit the term mergers and acquisitions (M&A) sector.

Among the key expectations voiced by industry leaders is attention to the recent Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommendations concerning licence fees, targeted support to propel radio’s impact, revision of Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) rates, waiver of import duty on newsprint, and lowering tax rates for individuals. Although these expectations may not be fulfilled in the interim budget, experts are optimistic that the full budget, scheduled for presentation after the election of the new government in May, could address these concerns.

Edited Excerpts:

Nisha Narayanan, COO & Director, Red FM & Magic FM

Despite radio’s unparalleled last-mile reach and indispensable role during crises, the industry still faces stagnant government expenditures. This Union Budget, we are hopeful to the authorities and urge them for their empathetic understanding of radio’s potential and a commitment to invest in its infrastructure. 

Our hearts in the FM Radio industry are brimming with optimism, hopeful that the recent TRAI recommendations concerning licence fees, infrastructure, and venturing into new digital formats will receive the attention they deserve. The support from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) with increased advertising rates is a warm embrace for our industry’s growth. We believe the allowance of news and current affairs will surely influence economic trajectories, signalling a readiness for FM expansion. The advent of digital evolution in the radio will also add a new dimension to broadcasting.

However, navigating this ever-evolving ecosystem requires careful manoeuvring with the help of the right policies. The merits of radio risk fading are huge without the crucial backing of supportive government policies, so we are truly looking forward.

Ashit Kukian, CEO, Radio City

As we eagerly await the Union Budget 2024, the radio industry envisions a transformative roadmap that amplifies our role in shaping India's cultural and informational landscape. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting allocated Rs. 4,692 crores and Prasar Bharati received Rs. 2,808.36 crores in the previous fiscal year, our collective gaze is fixed on the forthcoming budget, seeking targeted support to propel our impact. The Broadcasting and Infrastructure Development scheme, armed with a budget of Rs. 600 crores, fuels optimism for initiatives that reinforce innovation, technology integration, and talent development within our dynamic sector.

Amid an election year and global uncertainties, our expectations extend beyond mere sustenance. We anticipate measures that not only uphold our current operations but also catalyse our expansion and modernisation endeavours. This upcoming budget needs to mark a crucial juncture for the government to reaffirm its focus on our growth and endurance, recognising the radio industry's indispensable role in shaping public discourse and cultural narratives.

In the era of ‘Radigitalization,’ radio channels are strategically capitalising on multiple social media platforms to intricately connect and engage with listeners, resulting in a seamless blend of traditional broadcasting and digital innovation.

As India navigates the evolving waves of change, our vision for the budget aligns with the dynamic and transformative spirit of the airwaves, paving the way for a vibrant and forward-looking future for the radio industry."

Abhishek Karnani, Director, Free Press Journal

The print media in India has two key requests for the Finance Ministry to consider:

The first is that the DAVP rates be revised—the last revision was in 2019. Since then costs have multiplied, and competition from non-print media has soared. This industry needs support from the government because, even today, it commands immense credibility with both the general public and the government. Credibility is a valuable asset for the government and for us as well. 

Second, we do believe that the import duty on newsprint needs to be waived. This is because the industry faces significant headwinds from inflation and the non-print media. It is the most expensive media platform to plan its operation. The price tag of a newspaper is almost one-tenth of the actual cost of printing and paper. Asking the industry to pay an import duty burden over all this needs an urgent review. 

Anil Singhvi, Managing Editor, Zee Business

Maintain the current stability without disruption. The economy is robust and positioned as the world's fastest-growing. However, a critical consideration for the government is a reduction in individual tax rates. While corporate taxes stand at a reasonable 25%, an unprecedented occurrence is the personal income tax surpassing both corporate tax and GST collections. This presents a compelling argument for diminishing the tax burden on individuals. This move will also support the lower-income segments and contribute to rural economic upliftment.

Secondly, lowering tax rates, particularly for High Net Worth Individuals (HNIs), from the existing 39% to a range of 30-32%, inclusive of surcharges, can offer substantial relief. This will stimulate spending among the crucial contributors to rapid economic growth - the HNIs.

Lavinn Rajpal, MD & Co-founder, Chimp&z Inc

With a strong emphasis on the digital economy, the government's forward-looking stance is set to propel businesses towards adopting advanced technologies, particularly AI, revolutionising marketing strategies. Digital advertising is expected to be a major driver, contributing significantly to the projected 21% growth in the Indian advertising and marketing sector in 2024.

The government's commitment to capital expenditure and increased liquidity, as highlighted in the budget, sends a positive signal for the advertising industry. As the government strategically allocates resources across sectors, the resultant boost in liquidity is not only anticipated to stimulate consumption expenditure but also expected to translate into a surge in advertising spending. This financial impetus aligns with companies' efforts to effectively engage their target audience. Additionally, the budget's focus on supporting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and fostering start-up development schemes is expected to enhance the advertising industry further. As these businesses receive backing for their growth, increased investments in marketing and advertising are anticipated, contributing to the overall expansion of the sector. 

Furthermore, the ongoing development of artificial intelligence and the embrace of emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality enhance the industry's transformative journey, creating a dynamic and innovative landscape for advertisers. The Union budget for this year is designed to be growth-oriented, future-focused, and abundant with reforms, and we are looking forward to it having a positive impact on the digital marketing and advertising industry.”

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