Citizens' Issues
Paid News: How corruption in the Indian media undermines democracy

Sections of the media in India have willy-nilly become participants and players in practices that contribute to the growing use of money power in politics, which undermines democratic processes and norms— while hypocritically pretending to occupy a high moral ground, says the report released by Press Council of India

The Press Council of India’s once suppressed report on paid news, which indicted many publishers and broadcasters of taking money for reporting on state assembly elections in 2004 and 2009; praising one candidate while maligning others; which had a significant effect on the voting results is finally out.

The recommendation of the Press Council report were withheld from the public until an right to information (RTI) application from journalist Manu Moudgil forced to Press Council to come out with all the relevant details by 10 October 2011 after an order from the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC).

The report says, "It is widely believed that many media companies, irrespective of the volume of their businesses and their profitability, were 'selling' news space after arriving at an 'understanding' with politicians and representatives of corporate entities that were advertisers. Space in publications and airtime were occupied by advertisements that were disguised as 'news'."

After the ‘paid news' scandal surfaced, the Press Council, on 3 June 2009, under Justice GN Ray set up a subcommittee to inquire into the racket. The committee comprising Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, senior journalist, and Sreenivas Reddy, produced an explosive 71-page report which clearly mentioned the names (and details) of the personalities who were involved in this racket.

Here are the reports, main report of the Press Council…

 
 And report of the sub-committee…
 

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COMMENTS

P M Ravindran

5 years ago

It would be kidding to believe that paid news gains ground only during election times. It is a continuous activity and I have come across what I believe to be paid editorials even! And one source of this malaise is the money spent by governments on advertisement. Give me one good reason why the the tax payers' money should be spent on advertisements? In a democratic society isn't it the responsibility of the media to be the bridge between the government and the public? Shouldn't media which neglects this responsibility be allowed to die its own natural death?

REPLY

Java

In Reply to P M Ravindran 5 years ago

Most of the vernacular papers survive on govt ads (narcissistic full page colour ads) and even TV channels thrive on these (e.g. Mayawati's interminably long paean to herself recently). Obviously there is an expectation of quid pro quo. So the politicians and the media keep helping each other, with the people's money. It is a brazen racket and there's no one to do anything about it.

P M Ravindran

In Reply to Java 5 years ago

It is not that there is no one to do anything about it. Just recollect the two cases: one, the apex court tells the govt that instead of letting food rot in godowns they should be distributed amoung the poor. To it, even our 'meek' PM retorted by saying that the court had no business to intervene in matters purely in the domain of the executive! But then look at what the court ordered when Maya's splurge of tax payers' money on her notorious statues was challenged in the court- they said it was approved by the govt! Suffice to say that every meaningful effort by any and every responsible citizen gets thwarted by the thugs, scoundrels and traitors in offices of authority.

vikas

5 years ago

After reading the full report I can only say that people who claim that they show mirror to society, should see the mirror themselves.

Alex

5 years ago

Good thing this doesn't happen in the states - oh wait..

Java

5 years ago

What more can one say - the sub committee's report has too many disgusting details about the prostitution of Indian journalism and hoodwinking of public by smug criminals. In the US radio jockeys got jail sentences for payola: promoting music records surreptitiously against illegal payments or gifts. Here these people are subverting an entire democracy and cheating the markets by getting paid for favourable reporting, thus betraying the trust of the unwary citizens and the trusting public.

The government and politicians will do nothing to stop them, because they are directly benefited by this arrangement that gives them favourable coverage on cash payment - which is specially useful at election time.
Journalists, at least most of them, won't do anything, because they know which side their bread is buttered.

Indian democracy is being publicly trampled upon and humiliated by this brazen misuse of money power and there is no one to do anything about it. What a shame!

REPLY

Prakash Bhate

In Reply to Java 5 years ago

It is high time FDI is allowed in the press. While it may not completely prevent the phenomenon of ‘paid news’, competing with new entrants will perhaps bring in some professionalism. However, just suggest this and see how the Indian press starts howling.

P M Ravindran

In Reply to Prakash Bhate 5 years ago

I am sorry the impression that competition from foreigners will bring relief to the ordinary citizens is misplaced. Whether it is Coca Cola, baby products or even white goods manufacturers they have all proved beyond doubt that they have different standards for different regions- the developed countries, middle east, africa and the worst exclusively for India where we have the most corrupt and most treacherous people in offices of governance!

Inflation to fall to 6-7% by March end: FM

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said good industrial production numbers for November at 5.9% and a sharp decline in inflation “indicates some improvement in the overall macro-economic parameters in the second half of 2011-12”

New Delhi: Encouraged by a sharp dip in December inflation, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the declining rate of price rise indicates improvement in macro-economic parameters and projected March-end numbers at 6%-7%, reports PTI.

Headline inflation, as measured by Wholesale Price Index (WPI), fell to a two-year low of 7.47% in December 2011 from 9.11% in the previous month.

“Headline inflation should be between 6% and 7% in March end 2012,” Mr Mukherjee said, adding that he is confident that moderation in inflation would continue in the coming months.

As per the official data, prices of food items rose at a lower rate of 0.74% in December, compared to 8.54% expansion in the previous month.

The decline in the December inflation, he said, is “mainly due to significant decline in inflation for primary articles, including food inflation.”

Mr Mukherjee said good industrial production numbers for November at 5.9% and a sharp decline in inflation “indicates some improvement in the overall macro-economic parameters in the second half of 2011-12.”

“This trend is likely to consolidate in the coming months with some policy correctives,” Mr Mukherjee added.

Prices of manufactured products, which account for 65% in the WPI basket, went up by 7.41% year-on-year in December, as against 7.70% in the previous month.

“The manufactured inflation and inflation in the power group of items ... continued to be a cause of concern,” Mr Mukherjee said.

He added that the softening in prices of manufactured goods would be gradual, even as non-food primary inflation is witnessing rapid decline.

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Inflation at two-year low of 7.47% in December

The latest numbers are the lowest since December 2009 when headline inflation was at 7.15%. Headline inflation in the country has been above the 8% mark since January 2010, while it has remained above 9% since December of the same year

New Delhi: Headline inflation fell to a two-year low of 7.47% in December 2011 on cheaper food items, a factor which may prompt the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to cut policy rates in the upcoming review, reports PTI.

Headline inflation, as measured by Wholesale Price Index (WPI), had stood at 9.11% in November. It was 9.45% in the same month of 2010.

The latest numbers are the lowest since December 2009 when headline inflation was at 7.15%.

As per the official data released today, vegetables were cheaper by 34.18% and wheat by 3.81% on an annual basis. Potato and onion prices also fell by 35.45% and 60.45% year-on-year during December.

Prices of food items rose at a lower rate of 0.74% in December compared to 8.54% expansion in the previous month.

Food articles have a 14.3% share in the WPI basket and experts attributed the moderation in inflation to cheaper food articles.

Inflation in overall primary articles stood at 3.07% in December compared to 8.53% in November.

Non-food primary articles, which include fibres and oil seeds also showed moderation by registering an inflation of 1.48% in December compared to 3.22% rise in the previous month.

However, inflationary pressure continued in manufactured items, which have a weight of around 65% in the WPI basket.

Prices of manufactured products went up by 7.41% year-on-year in December, as against 7.70% in the previous month.

Inflation in manufactured items has been high since February 2011, when it crossed the 6% mark.

Among manufactured items, iron and semis grew dearer by 24.44% and edible oil prices rose by 11.52%.

The cost of tobacco products moved up by 13.18% and basic metals became 12.96% expensive year-on-year.

Inflation in the fuel and power segment stood at 14.91% on an annual basis in December against 15.48% in the previous month.

Meanwhile, inflation for October 2011 has been revised upwards to 9.87% from provisional estimate of 9.73%.

Experts said that the moderation in inflation will give more leeway to RBI to consider cuts in interest rates in the next few months.

Headline inflation in the country has been above the 8% mark since January 2010, while it has remained above 9% since December of the same year.

The apex bank has already hiked key policy rates 13 times since March 2010 to tame inflation.

India Inc has said the string of rate hikes, which have raised the cost of borrowing, have acted as a dampener to fresh investment and hindered growth.

The economic growth in July-September period of 2011-12 stood at 6.9%, the lowest in over two years.

The RBI, however, has put a pause to its rate hike policy since November last year and hinted that it may start loosening its tight monetary policy if inflation falls. It had projected inflation to fall to 7% by March this year.

Last month, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee pegged inflation at 6%-7% by March-end, on back of drop in food prices.

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