Private channels say their income has shrunk in the pandemic as advertisements drop and uncertainty looms over due bills for aired commercials
Owners of private television stations have demanded low-cost loan facilities similar to that given to the ready-made garment (RMG) sector to recover from the coronavirus shock.
They said salary payment and continuing operations have become challenging due to spiraling- down advertisements and uncertainty over getting bills for TV commercials.
To alleviate the situation, owners of private TV stations sought loans from the government announced Tk30,000 crore stimulus package meant for the industry and service sector. Besides, the TVs want loans at 2 percent interest for six months for salary payments of employees — an arrangement that the government launched for the country's ready-made garments industry.
Association of Television Channel Owners (ATCO) President Anjan Chowdhury wrote to the Financial Institutions Division on July 7 demanding the facilities. Subsequently, the division on July 21 sent a letter to the central bank to consider the proposal.
ATCO Member and Editor-in-Chief of Ekattor TV Mozammel Babu said, "Television channels and newspapers will qualify for loans from the service sector stimulus. We have talked to the Prime Minister's Office."
"The loan application process is complex and it may deter many to avail the credit. Therefore, we have requested the Bangladesh Bank to bring changes in its circular so that availing loans becomes easier," he told The Business Standard.
The editor-in-chief of Ekattor TV said the government had announced salary loans for the textile sector at 2 percent interest for two years. "We the TVs want the same benefit for the journalists and employees for six months. Discussion is on in this regard and we hope the government will support us considering our balance-sheets," he added.
In the letter sent to the Financial Institutions Division, Anjan Chowdhury said the TVs have been broadcasting news round the clock since the very beginning of the pandemic ─ covering government initiatives, public awareness raising, and treatment and prevention of Covid-19. The journalists and employees cooperated with the government and encouraged the people by news countrywide coverage even amid the nationwide shutdown and region-wise lockdown.
On the frontline fight against the pandemic, many TV staffers got infected with the virus while many are still undergoing treatment.
Anjan Chowdhury wrote, "But, getting loans from the government recovery package has appeared quite impossible in line with the central bank announced conditions. The TV channels do not have bank transactions like other businesses entities."
He requested the Financial Institutions Division to ask the Bangladesh Bank to bring changes in the circular so that the media outlets can avail recovery schemes.
In the meantime, information ministry officials said there are currently 45 private TV stations in Bangladesh. Of them, 30 are broadcasting while 15 are awaiting telecast.
Of the 30 TV stations, ten channels have paid Eid bonuses and other benefits for the last Eid-ul-Fitr and upcoming Eid-ul-Azha, said Mozammel Babu.
He mentioned that ten other TV stations had been paying salaries only while the remaining ten had salaries and bonuses due.