Dilip Kumar

Bhubaneswar: The outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns and shutdowns have broken the backbone of newspaper industry across the country, especially Odisha, directly posing a threat to the livelihood of many who were dependent on the same for a living.

Besides the fear of the virus transmission through paper, the increase in the price of newspapers and the availability of e-paper on mobile phones have added to the woes of the industry.

The newspaper distributors, who eke out a living by selling the dailies, opined that the craze of newspaper has drastically come down during the last nine months since the nation-wide lockdown was announced.

“The newspaper industry has been hit hard because of the Coronovirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown,” said Jayprakash Mutari, a Bolangir-based newspaper distributor.

During the initial phase of lockdown, people didn't receive the paper. But, now, some have started reading the print version of the news, he added.

The stiff decline in circulation of newspaper has also jeopardised livelihood of many distributors. "Before the lockdown, I used to distribute around 800 newspapers a day. But, now it has come down to almost zero. It has affected my livelihood greatly pushing me into a state of mental agony," said Bijay Kumar Nandy, a Balasore-based newspaper distributor.

Some others opined that the price hike has also played a significant role in diminishing the demand of newspapers.

"Just after the lockdown, many print media houses have increased the price of newspaper. So, the people have turned their attention to some alternatives. 'The Sambad' has hiked its price from Rs 5 to Rs 7 while the price of 'The Samaj' stands at Rs 5 now," said Girish Kumar Bhujabal, who distributes newspapers in Baripada.

Experts blame the popularity and easy availability of news through mobile phones for the dim situation of print media industry.

"When people didn't receive newspaper fearing Covid-19 transmission, several media houses started circulating their electronic version (e-paper) on their website. So, people can easily access to the daily happenings on their mobile phone now," said K Rabi, a senior journalist.

Echoing similar sentiment, another senior scribe Rabi Das said that the circulation of newspapers has fallen drastically due to the availability of e-paper on mobile phones and computers.

In May last year, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) had urged the Central government to provide a strong stimulus package to the newspaper industry which was among worst affected due to the pandemic.

In a letter to the Information and Broadcasting Secretary, the INS had said that the newspaper industry is among the worst affected in India with hardly any revenue coming in from either advertisement or circulation amid the nation-wide lockdown in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.