Posts Tagged ‘media’

Paid news and media extortion

May 18, 2014

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.


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.

On murder by pranking

December 8, 2012

It is not the “prank” which disgusts.

It is the lack of thought by two giggling radio DJ’s and their managers. It is their juvenile behaviour. It is their lack of intelligence. It is their betrayal of the trust shown by someone trying to be helpful. And it is the utter disregard for what their victims might suffer.

It is the lack of thought for the consequences of deliberately trying to break the trust extended by the unfortunate staff who were the butt of their call. It should not be beyond the intelligence of even Australian radio DJ’s or their boss – Rhys Holleran – to have realised that in the event of their prank succeeding, some poor staff member would have faced the sack. It should not have been beyond their little intelligence that revealing the private medical details of a mother -to-be – no matter how famous the person – was a fundamental breach of an individual’s privacy. They deny the sapiens in homo sapiens.

Once many years ago my 5 year-old son fell on the ice and suffered a concussion while I was travelling in the US. He was kept in hospital overnight and my wife spent the night with him. By the time I got the message it was about 2am back home. I called the hospital and an extremely helpful nurse filled me in, reassured me and then woke my wife so I could speak with her. I am forever grateful to that nurse who took me at my word as to who I was. How else can a nurse – or a hospital –  operate except in an atmosphere of trust? How else could Jacintha Saldanha have reacted unless the hospital had routed all calls from all worried relatives through some faceless security system?

It was murder by pranking and Mel Greig and Michael Christian are guilty. Their legal advisors and the station management are also guilty. Jacintha Saldanha was their victim. This crime carries no legal penalty but it was a betrayal of trust. It was – in my book -criminal behaviour. Maybe it cannot be used to generalise about the media and their methods but it certainly does add to my view that the media are untrustworthy and many of their employees are unintelligent and unthinking. I doubt that they are capable of regulating themselves.

The Times’ paywall has destroyed its brand equity and its circulation

October 8, 2012

Thirty years ago when living in the UK I was a daily purchaser of The Times. Three years ago I was a daily visitor to the The Times website and an occasional purchaser of the newspaper (around 30 copies per year when I was travelling). Then they introduced their hard paywall and I abstained. But withdrawal symptoms did not last too long and I don’t miss them very much – if at all. In fact, the absence of The Times from my daily reading  has had far less impact than I would have imagined. Nowadays it is very rarely that I find any references to articles in The Times that I would like to follow up on. The Times is no longer the paper of record in the UK and its restricted access makes it of little value as a reference for others.

I have a theory that the simplistic introduction of paywalls is not the model which will work for a very complex behavioural change in reading and news gathering and reference habits that is currently evolving. I suspect that the successful models will probably be those that involve an expansion of what can be viewed freely, but where this expanded readership can then be enticed into an increase in the purchase of valuable downloadable content. Restricting the initial readership – I think – can only lead to a collapsing spiral of interest and a destruction of brand value. The total circulation of The Times today for both the online and the paper versions together  is less than the paper circulation before the paywall.

In an article actually about the Bonniers struggling to find their own model, Svenska Dagbladet writes about The Times:

It is well understood that for putting value on journalism it is central to be creative in the development of payment models. However, there are some really bad examples. Worst of all is the newspaper that really listened to Jeanette Bonnier.

End the free reading! Close the store!  If you want to read, you must pay!

Which paper was that then? A certain paper called The Times, owned by Rupert Murdoch / News International. Just over two years ago they introduced a so-called hard pay wall. Not a thing was released over the fence without payment. The decision to completely close the site for open access  – and even to the  search engines, which they were forced to back down from the other week – possibly was by following  Jeanette Bonnier’s intuition. Or was it a way for Murdoch to provoke the industry to act. Either way, it was a gigantic failure.

Before the pay wall The Times Online had 21 million readers each month. Today, they have … drum roll! … 130 000 paying customers. Nowhere else in the history of journalism have so many readers – and so many advertisers – been scared away so effectively.

Even more interesting is the effect on the paper version. Its circulation during the same period fell from 570,000 per day to 397000. It is much more than what other newspapers have lost.

The explanation?

  1. A brand fatally weakened as fewer and fewer read the content, and
  2. Subscribers to the paper version shifting their allegiance to the much cheaper on-line, pay-walled version

The result was fewer subscribers, sharply lower revenues and a significantly depleted brand. And that’s what happens  if you’re looking for simple solutions to handle a complex situation.

I have the strong “guesstimate” and rather more than just a belief, that if The Times had increased their online (free) readership  they could have bucked the trend and even increased their paper circulation – by offering more content in the paper version where such content was also available on-line – but for a fee.

Fox News worse than no news! and viewers of The Daily Show are better informed than those of MSNBC

November 24, 2011

I am not sure if this says more about those being surveyed or about the media channels or about those doing the surveying! But it should give social psychologists endless opportunities for analysis.

LA Times:

A new survey of New Jersey voters comes to a provocative conclusion: Fox News viewers tend to be less informed about current events than those who don’t watch any news at all.

Perhaps it has to do with New Jersey.

But what may be even more profound is that

On Occupy Wall Street, the survey found viewers of “The Daily Show” were 12 percentage points more likely to say protesters were predominantly Democratic. MSNBC viewers were the most likely to say the protesters were mainly Republicans.

“The Irene show” bombs – media disappointment high

August 29, 2011

The much-hyped Hurricane Irene fizzled to a tropical storm and failed to deliver the massive devastation that the media was hoping for.

The wall-to-wall coverage of the expected destruction has now left the media desperately trying to show that apocalypse was only narrowly averted. But they cannot hide their terrible disappointment. Politicians are implying that “crying wolf” was not only the right thing to do but might actually have dampened the storm. Millions lost electricity as areas were shut down as a precaution against flooded sub-stations.  But the 20 – 30 foot storm surges expected only managed to reach some 2 or 3 feet.

But water and gas and batteries and candles all sold very well.

The muted headlines on the day after cannot hide the disappointment –

Telegraph – Perfect Storm of Hype: US politicians, the media and the Hurricane Irene apocalypse that never was 

New York Times – ‘Some Hurricane,’ New Yorkers Grumble as Danger Passes

Boston Globe – Tired Irene slaps N.E.

Washington Post – Hurricane Irene was not the powerhouse most expected 

According to my son – “Well it was windy and quite wet”. Oh well!

Paid news: The cancer in the Indian media

February 5, 2011

The Hindu stands out as one of the few main-stream media prepared to discuss the insidious and increasing trend towards “paid news” in Indian newspapers and on the multiplicity of Indian TV channels fighting for advertising revenue. The TV “news” channels abandoned the rigour of traditional journalism some time ago and are mainly in the business of manufacturing or sensationalising news or of presenting “paid news”. TV anchors are chosen on their ability to rant and programmes are dominated by

  • instant “breaking” news – much of it manufactured – or
  • revelations of scams filmed by “secret” cameras – but usually provoked, or
  • so-called chat shows and panel discussions where  only antagonistic participation is permitted (and the more one can screech over the other the more likely it is to be re-invited to participate – paid of course).

The Hindu writes:

In newspapers and TV channels, choking with stories on corruption, this is the one story you are the least likely to see. The media are their own worst censors when it comes to reporting on ‘Paid News.’

Just before the 2009 Assembly elections in Maharashtra, a large newspaper group in the State brought its editors together for a meeting in Pune. Generally, it was agreed, winning a seat in the State legislature would cost Rs. 3 crore to Rs. 5 crore. ($700,000 to $1.1 million). ….. If there’s that kind of money being spent, said the cash-box boys, we should get a decent share of it. What, after all, is election expenditure but campaign and propaganda expenses? Detailed plans for ‘pay-to-print’ were soon under way in one of the biggest media groups in the State. ……

Paid news comes in many packages: pre-paid, post-paid and yet-to-be-paid, for instance. There are also deluxe tariffs and aam aadmi tariffs, the former in crores (10s of millions), the latter in lakhs (100,000’s). Sadly, these media groups met, even exceeded, their targets.

But it’s not just during elections that paid news or its Euclidian variants occur. The crazy saturation coverage of Davos in some channels was not caused by breathless public interest or media curiosity. It had a lot to do with ‘partnerships’ and corporate subsidies the public can’t see, and won’t be allowed to see. Some channels sent out ‘rules’ to their journalists of things that just had to be done. Rules with no particular journalistic rationale at all. …..

It is a scam worth more millions than anyone can accurately estimate. Most other institutions of Indian democracy and regulatory structures have tried doing something about it. But in the free media, there was a costly silence…..

So the ECI, Parliament, SEBI and top political leaders have all contributed to the fight against the slaughter of honest journalism. Even the spineless PCI did so, before deserting ship. But in the media there is near-total silence. True, there are the exceptions. And the fact that all those journalists went public at those meetings shows how deep their resentment runs. But institutionally, the media’s failure is huge and, if not reversed, will extract a terrible price. The corporate media have censored the Paid News story, browbeaten their own journalists and cheated the public of information it has every right and need to know.

Read the entire article.

Related: India’s Election Commission To Address It’s Paid News Problem

Paid news syndrome is a full blown cancer in Indian Media

Egypt, Iraq, Who Cares!

February 1, 2011

This is actually two years old from 27th July 2008 but is doing the rounds again on Twitter.

But as a commentary on the competence of some of the more superficial main stream media it remains valid.

Chinese Science Ministry vindicates academic fraud journalists

October 13, 2010
Chinese Academy of Sciences

Chinese Academy of Sciences: Image via Wikipedia

The case of the two crusading journalists in China who were brutally attacked after they had exposed academic fraud has been reported by Retraction Watch and the risks they take has been reported here.

In one case after a quick trial, a local court in Beijing convicted urologist Xiao Chuang-Guo on 10 October of assaulting two well-known advocates of academic integrity in China.
One victim of the attacks was Fang Shimin, freelance writer and self-appointed watchdog of research misconduct. Fang had questioned Xiao’s academic achievements, but this was not what prompted the attack, Xiao claimed. Xiao told the court that he had a decade-long personal conflict with Fang, mainly because Fang had insulted Xiao’s wife and teacher.

But the Chinese Science Ministry has today issued a statement castigating Xiao.

China’s Ministry of Science and Technology has lambasted a doctor at the center of an academic fraud scandal who masterminded two violent attacks on his critics, and denied he was still on the payroll of a medical research project. The ministry issued a statement on its website late Tuesday, claiming Doctor Xiao Chuanguo had no respect for the law and disrupted social order.

It said Xiao should be condemned for his vicious misconduct and lack of integrity. Xiao, 55, head of the Urology Department of Wuhan Union Hospital, was sentenced Sunday to five and a half months in detention by the Shijingshan District People’s Court of Beijing. The court found Xiao hired four men to attack two writers who had accused him of academic fraud.

Xiao believed the accusation had led to his failing to become a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The victims of the violent attacks were Fang Zhouzi, a science writer with a reputation for exposing academic fraud, and Fang Xuanchang, an editor at the economic journal, Caijing.

The ministry denied claims that Xiao was still a chief scientist on a ministry-sponsored science project.

According to the statement, Xiao used to be the chief scientist researching neurological damage repair on the “973 Plan,” a key national science project. The statement said Xiao’s program ran from 2003 to 2008 and that Xiao was no longer responsible for any “973 plan” projects. It said “chief scientist” was not an honorary title.



BBC balance: 1 PR = 2 x FRS

October 1, 2010

The BBC carries a short article about the Royal Society’s rewritten “Short guide to the science of climate change”.

Professor Anthony Kelly, one of the 43 Fellows who called for the change, says he is reasonably satisfied with the new guidance. “It’s gone a long way to meeting our concerns,” he said. “The previous guidance was discouraging debate rather than encouraging it among knowledgeable people. The new guidance is clearer and a very much better document.”

Professor Kelly is one of two Fellows who are advisers to Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, which says it wants to bring balance to a “seriously unbalanced, irrationally alarmist” debate about the impact of human activities on the Earth’s climate system.

Having named the GWPF the BBC feels it incumbent for the sake of balance to also mention the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, But to do this they are forced to quote a certain Bob Ward who is the PR hack of the Grantham Institute.

But the BBC which is far from neutral in the climate disruption / change debate, reveals its governing mathematics when it implies that one public relations hack is sufficient to balance two Fellows of the Royal Society:

1 x PR = 2 x FRS

Paywalls are a real turnoff

July 21, 2010

Over the last few weeks I find I am just not visiting The Times site any more. Clearly I am not the only one as Business Week reports. After 42 years of reading The Times regularly, I find I don’t miss it much either, which I thought I might. In fact there is not a single reporter or columnist at The Times who can any longerbe classified as a “must read” . Their speed of reporting has been insufficient to lead to any scoops and their biases are not insignificant. Lately they have shown little editorial courage either. Perhaps their time has now gone.

Visits to the website of The Times newspaper have fallen to a third since Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. started asking users to pay for online access. Traffic in the week ended July 10 declined to 33 percent of that before the company demanded users register, according to data compiled by Experian Hitwise. The Times’ share of traffic to news and media websites from the U.K. fell to 1.43 percent from 4.46 percent, Experian said in an e-mailed statement.

In fact blogs even with their blatant partisanship are getting more of my visits than the Mainstream media sites. The known political slant of the blogs can be easily discounted but the MSM which claims impartiality is becoming less reliable because they are all actually quite biased but their bias is not visible.

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