ISLAMABAD (Online) - Leading media figures and office-bearers of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) have urged upon the government to expedite overdue payments to the advertising agencies on account of advertisements in the print media to avoid a crisis in the advertising and media industry. Funds approved should not be allowed to lapse, and advertising agencies must be paid according to the approved criteria. This had been the principled stance of the APNS that the advertising agencies as well as publications irrespective of their size must be paid their dues on pro-rata basis with all the precautions. It is the payment of the ads the government had placed in the media through the claimant ad agencies that is now too long overdue. Therefore, there should be no ambiguity or controversy about this. It was stressed that the government should pay these dues according to the criteria before they lapse with the end of the financial year on June 30. Vice President APNS Umar Shami called upon the government to settle the bills of the advertising agencies worth millions of rupees stuck up with the government since the year 2000. He requested the government as well as the Opposition to help the media industry in getting overdue payments cleared in order to save it from crisis looming large in case of non-payment of advertising agencies dues for advertisements in the print media for the period from 2000 to 2008. These were bills that governments kept pending for years and have lapsed in the past as well despite approvals, he added. Shami was thankful to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for approving the funds and appreciated the criteria fixed by the information ministry and the APNS for clearance of these eight-year-old stuck up payments. He further appealed to the government to release the funds according to the PMs approval and the approved criteria. Kazi Muhammad Aslam, former senior vice president of the APNS and the current secretary general of PBA stated that the APNS has been asking for release of these funds for over three years now. If these funds are not released and are let to lapse, once again the media industry will face a massive crisis, he added. Another leading figure in the media industry Zia Shahid said the payments should be made at the earliest according to the criteria agreed upon between the information ministry and the APNS. The agencies would not be able to pay to the newspapers, unless they get paid their overdue bills by the government and that would be detrimental for the smaller newspapers to survive amid challenging state of economy, he added, expressing his hopes that the government would handle the issue adequately and the ad agencies would be paid well in time. It is pertinent to note that upon request of the APNS the prime minister had approved over Rs 900 million some three years back against the piled up bills of the advertising agencies over the period of 2000 to 2008. Electronic media payments were later excluded and some payments were made during last three years; but mostly the funds lapsed. Previous year the prime minister approved an amount of Rs 460 million out of which bills amounting to Rs 350 million were verified by the PID and met the minimum criteria fixed by the ministry of information and APNS, and were finally cleared for payments. These funds would again lapse if not paid before June 30, and this would mean further delays in payments that were delayed already by over a decade now. The media heads were of the view that continued delays in overdue payments to the ad agencies would be posing economic risks to many publications amid squeezing advertising revenue and due the economic downturn.