Rail media operators handling ‘Essential Services’ approach Board for 18-month waiver of license fee, other charges
By Rajiv Raghunath - June 20, 2020
The media operators reaffirm commitment to run the AV public address systems & electronic display boards at stations, but seek Railway Board’s support for the firms to tide over the adverse business conditions
Railway media owning firms that provide essential services at key railway stations by way of audio-visual public address systems / computer-based announcement systems and electronic train indicator boards have approached the Chairman of the Railway Board with a representation for waiver of periodic license fee payment and electricity charges for operating the aforementioned the train information systems for a period of 18 months.
The representation, led by Srishti Communications and Armour Digital, cites that the media concessionaries are fully committed to operate the train information systems -- deemed as “Essential Services” as per the Railway Board notification issued in the letter number 2018/CM (PA) 03/06 issued by ministry of Railways under reference no RB/L&A/001/2018 dated 09-04-2018 – with due support from the Railway Board.
The representation points to the dire circumstances under which the media operators are having to run the information systems. The advertising revenues that were to support the railway media operations have drawn to a naught in the face of the pandemic, national lockdowns and cancellation of regular train services pan-India. At the same time, the media operators are month-on-month meeting the high interest payouts on capital invested in setting up the state-of-the-art AV announcement systems and display boards, other operational expenses and salary payouts to the employees engaged in these projects.
The representation also highlights that the Railways has not incurred any capital expenditure for setting up the audio-visual public address systems / computer-based announcement systems and electronic train indicator boards at the stations, but instead, as per contracts issued to the media operators, earns license fee periodically. Thus, the passenger amenities are being delivered without any upfront investments by the Railways.
Weighed down by the surging expenses, and with no current and expected earnings from advertising on the media assets, the media operators in their representation have stated that they would be able to sustain uninterrupted delivery of the “Essential Services” at the stations, if the Board were to waive off the license fee and electricity charges on the information / display systems for a period of 18 months.
The representation has reference to the locations / stations where the AV public address systems and electronic train indicator are in operation, that include: AbuRoad; Agra; Ahmedabad; Ajmer; Andheri; Bangalore Cantoment; Bangalore City; Bangarpet; Bhilwara; Borivali; Chennai Central; Chennai Egmore; Churchgate; Dadar (Booking Hall); Dadar (FOB); Fairlie Place; Falna; Gorakhpur; Howrah; Indore; Jabalpur; Jodhpur; Kengeri; Koilaghat; Krishnarajapuram; Lucknow NER; Lucknow NR; Aluva; Mandya; Tumkur; Yelahanka; Chengannoor; Kulithurai; Changanassery; Thrissur; Kannur; Kottayam; Trivandrum Central; Hosur; Hindupur; Nagercoil; Doddaballapur; Chikkaballapur; Kayamkulam; Ernakulam North; Banaswadi; Dharmapuri; Bangalore East; Baiyappanahalli; Whitefield; Palakkad; Alapuzha; Calicut; Malur; Kuppam; Madurai; Marwar; Mumbai Central; Nandurbar; Pune; Rani; Surat; Udaipur; Gauribidanur; Thiruvalla; Mathura; Penukoda; Kanyakumari; Mumbai CST; Malleswaram; Kollam; Nizamuddin; Chikbanavara; Nayandahalli; Raipur; Ramanagaram Varkkala; Rajkot; Channapatna; Ernakulam South; Sathya Sai Prashanthi Nilayam; Shornor; Kazhakuttam; Tirupati; Maddur; Pandavapura; Vadodara; Vapi; Srirangapatna; Kochuveli; Varanasi; Carmelaram; Yeshwanthpur; Guruvayoor.