Monday, August 23, 2010

Paid news

In the last elections, several newspapers are said to have covered election campaigns for a price. This phenomenon of 'paid news' was exposed by P Sainath of the Hindu following which the Press council of India (PCI) constituted a sub-committee to go into the matter.

The sub-committee confirmed that news had indeed been paid for and furnished whatever information it had been able to gather in a report submitted to PCI. Following this, the PCI decided, by a narrow majority, not to make the report public. Mitali Saran has some strong words on the subject in her column in BS:

Concerned journalists on the panel called the PCI a ‘toothless tiger’. They talked about how in the 1980s and 1990s, regional newspapers didn’t pay their reporters a salary, but gave them a commission on any ads they brought in; how corporate management is increasingly sidelining editors; how journalists are given lists of subjects to cover in a target number of column inches.

The PCI sub-committee report, the burial of that report, and the media’s lack of interest in the topic points to a complicity so deep that nobody can afford to turn the lens on themselves. It takes the idea that there are always a few rotten apples in the barrel, and shows that the one you bite into every morning is ridden with maggots. There’s no better reason for you to care.

I have long maintained that two of the pillars of the fourth estate that need strengthening are the judiciary and the media. There are signs of greater accountability being brought into the judiciary. When will the media's turn come?

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