Moneylife Events
‘The media industry needs an independent regulating authority with teeth’

Movie on paid news organised by Moneylife Foundation leaves the audience shocked

“Control over media is a dangerous proposition, but there needs to be an independent authority which can force corrective action on publishers without interfering with their freedom,” said veteran journalist and former Press Council member Mr Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. His comment summed up the lively interactive panel discussion that followed a screening of the movie ‘Brokering News’ by Moneylife Foundation and vCitizens Action Network and MxM India.

‘Brokering News’ is a documentary movie by award winning filmmaker Umesh Agarwal; which deals with four aspects of paid news: election coverage, business and finance, movies and sports. The movie was followed by a panel discussion with the director and eminent journalists like Sucheta Dalal, trustee of Moneylife Foundation, film journalist Bhawna Somaaya, sports journalist Ayaz Memon and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

While all the journalists emphasised on the electronic and print media’s need for introspection, they also said that enquiries must be launched against publishers who come up with suspicious-looking content or articles that engage in adulation for an organisation or persons.

Ms Dalal said, “Sebi has written to the Press Council about the menace of paid news, which shows how much this menace has spread.” When asked by an audience member about what implications paid news on business houses may have, she said, “When some news about some fake deal is ‘leaked out’; the share prices of that company moves up. It may not look serious to some, but it has vast ramifications on the stock market and the economy. It is particularly damaging to investors who invest after reading bogus reports.”

Mr Agarwal was asked about including healthcare in the ‘paid news’ ambit. Mr Agarwal replied, “It is a very serious issue. Although we could not include it in this movie, my earlier film, ‘Incurable India’ is precisely about paid news on healthcare services, medicines and doctors. Unfortunately, even when people witness wrong doings, they are helpless. And people from the medicine fraternity rarely act as whistleblowers.”

Ms Somaaya also agreed with him, and talked about a person who acts as a PRO for some doctors in the media. While talking about movies, she said, “The moment critics agree to participate in private screenings by movie makers, they fall into a trap. When the movie gets over, the director/producer would discuss all about ratings and review content and would often not compromise. The review is filed almost immediately after; without any introspection or thought preceding it; and even bad movies get good ratings.” She talked about how she was asked to repeat discussions on Aishwarya Rai’s newborn because bookies had placed huge bets on the event.

Mr Ayaz Memon said that paid news about sports; especially cricket, started when matches were telecasted on television. “Suddenly, some journalists could earn more from one coverage than what they were getting annually. Everyone jumped in, and in order to earn more than their rivals, they started to go for paid news,” he said. He gave the example of IPL, which had many media houses as stakeholders of franchises. “The media went gaga over the IPL, and started to promote it like it was the best thing in cricket. The moment the scam surfaced, they all started to throw muck. The audience should ask that what they were doing for three years, and why they had promoted IPL if they now say that everything was bad about it.”

Mr Guha Thakurta pointed out how for the first time, an Uttar Pradesh MLA’s candidature was cancelled because the Election Commission came to know that she had paid for news coverage. When asked about what is to be done with erring publications, he said that media, apart from self-regulation, must have an independent regulatory authority with teeth. “The PCI and Editors Guild must be empowered. In other countries, they can direct media houses to issue apologies or even fine them in case they cross their limits or publish paid content. Efforts are being made to strengthen the PCI,” he said.

He also said that if someone is convinced that his newspaper is duping him, he should change his subscription. “And if you are repelled by your news channel, use the remote control,” he said.



Chandragupta Acharya

5 years ago

Please release this movie on Youtube and Facebook so that people can watch it and spread the awareness

S H Subrahmanian

5 years ago

Justice Katju, the new chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), is rather worried about the low quality of the media and its poor intellectual standards. "It doesn't have adequate knowledge of economic theory or
political science or literature or philosophy", he says.
A TV survey reports 74% of viewers supporting these views. Let me too subscribe to this to an extent. His pleading of more powers to the PCI is indeed a threat of action, and it will certainly force the media to introspect.
As far as politics is concerned most of the media is controlled by the congress and the 'dissatisfied' allies!.
Yet, I believe, if the suggestion is for a 'heavy bureaucratic set up', it's a matter for a national debate.

Macquarie raises red flag on economy; sees growth below 7%

Macquarie has cited “lack of policy reforms” and political compulsions as key reasons for the downgrade of its GDP growth projection for the fiscal FY12-13, beginning April 2012, to 6.9%, from 7.9% previously

New Delhi: Global research firm Macquarie has downgraded India’s economic growth forecast for the next fiscal to below 7% and has warned that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) expansion outlook is on a ‘slippery slope’, reports PTI.

Macquarie has cited “lack of policy reforms” and political compulsions as key reasons for the downgrade of its GDP growth projection for the fiscal FY12-13, beginning April 2012, to 6.9%, from 7.9% previously.

However, it has maintained its GDP growth projection for the country in the current fiscal, ending March 2012, at 7.4%.

In a research note, Macquarie has said that its stance on the Indian GDP growth outlook for FY12-13 has changed from ‘mild recovery’ to ‘continued sluggish’ growth, in the context of a weak global economic environment.

“While the global environment is likely to remain uncertain, we believe that domestic factors will dominate the growth outlook,” it said.

Even if the private corporate sentiments improve in the second half of FY12-13, it will be reflected in the financials of the companies only by FY13-14, as investment projects have a long gestation period, Macquarie added.

Weak investor confidence on governance issues, higher interest rates and higher inflationary pressures, hindrances to project execution, uncertainty about the global economy and weak global capital markets are increasing funding risks, the report said.

Moreover, elections and political issues are likely to further crowd out private corporate capex as the government will largely pursue populist reforms over the next 6-8 months and could delay the tough reforms, it noted.

There are five state elections due in 2012, including Uttar Pradesh, which happens to be one of the most populous states in the country and is regarded as a very important state for the national political scenario. Besides, national parliament elections are also due in 2014.

“There is a slump in overall consumption level, besides, the uncertainty in the global economic environment will likely result in further slowdown in India’s export growth over the coming months,” the report said.

However, “the pursuance of the government’s loose fiscal policy and rise in rural wages will continue to lend support to overall demand.”

Headline inflation in India as measured by the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) remained above the RBI’s comfort zone of 5%-5.5% over the last 22 months and has averaged 9.5% over this period.

“We expect WPI inflation to remain sticky at around the 7%-7.5% level in FY12-13,” Macquarie said adding that “a further increase in minimum support prices by the government, high rural wages and persistent input cost pressure will mean that food (primary and manufactured) WPI inflation should remain high despite normal monsoons.”

Regarding interest rates, the report said India is “near the peak of rate increases” and interest rates are likely to remain at these high levels over the next six months.



Finance ministry trashes Plan panel’s draft new urea investment policy

The Department of Expenditure has strongly opposed the suggestions and asked the Planning Commission to give a realistic policy to attract investment in the urea sector

New Delhi: The finance ministry has rejected a policy drafted by the Planning Commission to attract new investment in the urea sector, saying the proposals are unrealistic, unviable and will lead to high subsidy outgo, reports PTI.

The government had come out with a fertiliser investment policy in 2008, but it failed to attract fresh investment in the sector. Last year, the government said it will come with a new policy structure to overcome the shortfall in domestic urea production.

Accordingly, the Planning Commission—the government’s apex economic planning body—had prepared a draft policy framework and has already circulated it among the concerned ministries, including fertilisers and finance, for comment.

According to sources privy to the development, the Department of Expenditure has strongly opposed the suggestions and asked the Planning Commission to give a realistic policy to attract investment in the urea sector.

“The regime proposed by the draft report under consideration is unrealistic. It would not address the core issues of a viable gas price,” the Department of Expenditure noted.

The Planning Commission has suggested a domestic gas price at $7-$8 per million metric British thermal units (mmBtu) for new fertiliser units as against the existing price of $4.2 per mmBtu.

Gas is the main feedstock for urea and accounts for more than 70% of the cost of manufacturing.

Sources also mentioned that the government’s subsidy would rise sharply if it were to go by Plan panel’s suggestion of fixing a high floor price of $370 per tonne for urea and a ceiling price of $470 per tonne.

Under the investment policy implemented in September 2008, the floor has been fixed at $250 per tonne and the ceiling price at $424 per tonne.

Last year, urea accounted for Rs23,900 crore of the government’s total fertiliser subsidy bill.

 “The floor and ceiling prices prescribed are proposed to be constant, irrespective of the gas price actually paid by the unit. In the event of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) allocating natural gas to the units, the policy would lead to unnecessary, excess subsidy outgo,” sources said.

 On the other hand, if the final allocation of gas to new units by EGoM falls short of the requirement, the compensation proposed at the ceiling level might not be adequate for viable production, they said.

 Sources said the finance ministry has also opposed the proposal that at least 75% of new capacity in the fertiliser industry should be fed by domestic gas and the remaining 25% with imported gas (LNG), saying “the assumption is without any basis”.

 The ministry has also pointed out that the draft policy note is silent on the issue of investment abroad to take advantage of cheaper energy in some countries, they added.

 The country’s urea production stood at 22 million tonnes in 2010-11, as against the annual demand of 28.24 million tonnes. The gap of 6-7 million tonnes is met through imports.



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