Paid news and media extortion

The media like to portray themselves as a vital and necessary force for democracy. Attacks on the press – in any form – are considered fundamentally a strike against democracy and press freedom. If they break the law and get arrested they claim they were doing it for the greater good. They believe they are entitled to some form of press immunity.

But the reality is that “press freedom” is far too often used as an excuse for justifying criminal behaviour and  bad journalism. Accountability is not of any great concern.

But the media (print and broadcast and on the internet) are not averse to being paid for presenting what is essentially advertising as “news”. And even being paid for not publishing negative stories!!

The Election Commission in India are basking in the soft glow of having successfully conducted the massive, 10 phase voting by 550 million of an electorate of over 800 million over a 6 week period. They have the task of maintaining a “free and fair” election and have not been slow to pull up politicians who are transgressing. They have detected nearly 700 cases of the media transgressing the bounds of propriety.

But they have no authority over the media and the media – in their own judgement – can do no wrong.

DNA: 

As many as 694 cases of paid news – or news for which the media organisations took money to publish or broadcast – were detected by the Election Commission in this election, official said.

By the time the 10 phases of the polls ended to form the 16th parliament on May 12, thousands of cases of paid news were reported, according to EC officials. In 3,053 cases, notice was issued by the EC suspecting a foul play, an official said. 

“We served 3,053 notices, 694 of which were found to be genuine cases of paid news by our Media Certification and Monitoring Committee,” EC Director General Akshay Rout told IANS. “We define paid news as those items which are published as news but are advertisement in nature,” he added.

“There is no accountability in the media. While some candidates willingly pay for positive coverage, in most other cases candidates have to pay to prevent negative coverage. The media is getting increasingly criminalised, and acting as extortionist,” noted columnist and commentator Swapan Das Gupta told IANS. He added that media is acting as a reckless body, violating every known tenet of ethics.

… The Election Commission …. said it was not obliged to act against the TV news channels or print media indulging in such practices. “The media houses or publications are beyond the EC’s purview. We simply forward the cases of paid news to the PCI and the News Broadcasting Standards Association,” Dhirendra Ojha, Director in the EC, told IANS.

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