Newsprint levy puts tabloids in a spot


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 08 Oct 2003

BY JANE RITIKOS AND MANJIT KAUR

KUALA LUMPUR: Tabloid publishers are lamenting that the imposition of an anti-dumping duty on imported newsprint will force them to take drastic measures to cut costs. 

Perdana Production House Sdn Bhd managing director Mohd Khairuni Mohd Ali, publisher of the weekly Mingguan Perdana, said the paper – which has maintained its cover price of RM1 for 20 years – would be badly affected by the move. 

To maintain the cover price, he said the company might have to cut overheads, travelling allowances, overseas trips and even freeze employment. 

“We have to maintain our price because any increase will lose us readers,” he said. 

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz recently announced the levy of between 6% and 43% on imported newsprint, which came into effect on Sept 26 following a petition by the country's only local newsprint supplier, Malaysian Newsprint Industries Sdn Bhd. 

Tastax Raya Press Sdn Bhd chief editor and executive chairman Datuk Jamaludin Abu Bakar said imposing the levy would put publishers in jeopardy and cause people to lose their jobs.  

His publications include the weekly tabloids Buletin Utama and Buletin Demokrasi, and Mitus, Teruna dan Dara and Industri Malaysia magazines. 

“The Government has to save small publications as well as the giants instead of protecting one company,” he said, adding that the move was not only irresponsible but insensitive. 

John Khoo, managing director of Chinese daily Merdeka Daily News in Sabah, which has a circulation of below 10,000 copies, said small newspapers like his depended heavily on advertising revenue to survive.  

“If we increase advertisement rates to offset the higher costs, we will lose advertisers. The talk among the newspapers here is to increase the cover price but this is not ideal in the present economic situation.” 

In Penang, Kwong Wah Yit Poh Press Bhd chairman Datuk Ong Gim Huat concurred that small-time publishers would be harder hit by the levy, noting that they were already paying more for newsprint compared to bigger publishers, who could achieve economies of scale by buying in bulk. 

He added that even prior to the imposition of the levy, publishers were already paying a 5% tariff on newsprint imported from other Asean countries and 10% on imports from non-Asean countries. 

“Just imagine, we are already paying more and on top of that we have to pay either the 5% or 10% tariff, and now we are burdened with the levy,” he said on Monday. 

Ong suggested that the Government capped the levy's ceiling price at US$500 (RM1,900) per tonne and any purchase of newsprint above that level should not be taxed.  

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