Bookmark:A Phenomena of Paid News
|Paid News: The Bane of Ethical Journalism, Yking Books, Rs 825, Pp 218|
Paid News– or the news for which media houses took money to publish or broadcast – has emerged as the single-most threat denting media credibility in the country. During the recently held general elections also the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee of Election Commission detected about 3053 cases of paid news and found 694 of them genuine. This indicates to the enormous form that the Paid News menace has assumed in India.
Sanjay Gaur’s Paid News: The Bane of Ethical Journalism, is a fascinating read on the paid news menace. He perfectly narrated how the disease assumed the form of an epidemic and all media ethics were auctioned by the big media houses. He also analysed the role of Press Council of India, Election Commission and other agencies which have to curb this menace. The 218 pages book has been published by Yking Books, Jaipur.
|The agencies like PCI and ECI responsible for curbing the menace have only proved ineffctive. It is time to take a radical step to arrest the threat undermining democratic set up.|
In the book, he writes that though the paid news has been in practice for many decades in different forms, it started influencing the poll outcomes after 2004 general elections. In the general elections held in 2009 and the assembly polls held thereafter, not only the senior politicians but also almost all political parties were found to be indulging in this unethical practice. At that time it assumed the form of an organised business when majority of the newspapers or the news channels approached the candidates and the political parties with ‘tariff cards’ or ‘packages’ mentioning their rates. They adopted all means to extort money from the candidates. Those who refused to pay were almost blacked out and not a single line was published about them. On the other hand those who paid money were received one sided publicity generating false atmosphere in their favour.
The paid news goes beyond the corruption of individual journalists and media companies. It has become pervasive, structured and highly organised and in the process is undermining democracy. The fraud takes place at three levels. One, the reader of the newspaper or viewer of the news channel is deceived into believing that what is essentially an advertisement is indeed independently produced news content. Two, by not officially declaring the expenditure incurred on planting such deceptive news items, the political candidate contesting the elections violate the Election Rules, which are meant to be enforced by the Election Commission of India under the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Third, by not accounting for the money received from candidates, the concerned media houses are violating the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 and the Income Tax Act, 1961, among other laws.
The nexus between the politicians and media owners is so strong that it is difficult to prove the dealings with evidences. But there are circumstantial evidences which prove the dealing beyond any doubt. The Supreme Court ruling of May 5 this year in which the apex court armed the Election Commission of India with the authority of disqualifying a candidate for lodging false accounts of election expenditure and held that such inquiries can also take into account the accusations over paid news as well, will prove a milestone in curbing the malady. In the case of Ashok Chavan, and Madhu Koda, the Court directed the EC to conclude inquiries within 45 days and take appropriate action over allegations of paid news. Chavan has been under EC inquiry for paid news since 2009 Bhokar assembly constituency of Nashik. Source in the EC say Chavan can face disqualification over the paid news as the EC has gathered sufficient evidences against him. Prior to him, a MLA in Uttar Pradesh, Umlesh Yadav, has already been disqualified over the same allegations.
The voice opposing the menace has come from within the media also. Some eminent journalists like BG Verghese, Kuldip Nayar, Mrinal Pandey, Prabhash Joshi, Ajit Bhattacharjea, P Sainath, Ram Bahadur Rai came out in open against it. The Press Council of India (PCI), responsible for arresting this menace too proved toothless. The Council has only the power to admonish, reprimand and pass strictures but cannot penalize the errant or those found guilty of malpractices. Though the EC has taken steps and issued some guidelines, no remedy seems to be coming for effectively curb the malady.
-Pramod Kumar (Y King Books, 18, Jain Bhawan, Opp NBC, Shanti Nagar, Jaipur- 302 006)