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Paid News: How corruption in the Indian media undermines democracy

17 October 2011

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In recent years, corruption in the Indian media has gone way beyond the corruption of individual journalists and specific media organizations — from ―planting‖ information and views in lieu of favours received in cash or kind, to more institutionalized and organized forms of corruption wherein newspapers and television channels receive funds for publishing or broadcasting information in favour of particular individuals, corporate entities, representatives of political parties and candidates contesting elections, that is sought to be disguised as ―news‖.
News is meant to be objective, fair and neutral – this is what sets apart such information and opinion from advertisements that are paid for by corporate entities, governments, organizations or individuals. What happens when the distinction between news and advertisements start blurring, when advertisements double up as news that have been paid for, or when ―news‖ is published in favour of a particular politician by selling editorial spaces? In such situations, the reader or the viewer can hardly distinguish between news reports and advertisements/advertorials.
This report tracks the blurring boundaries between news and advertisements/advertorials and highlights the efforts made by individuals and representatives of organizations who have painstakingly chronicled the selling of editorial space for money during elections.
Over the last few years and since 2009 in particular, the phenomenon of ―paid news‖ has acquired a new and even more pernicious dimension by entering the sphere of political ―news‖ or ―reporting‖ on candidates contesting elections. Numerous favourable or complimentary ―news‖ reports and feature articles on representatives of political parties, including candidates who have been contesting elections, have appeared in newspapers across the country in the run-up to the Lok Sabha as well as state legislative assembly elections and similar kinds of information have been aired on television channels without disclosing the fact that monetary transactions have taken place between the concerned candidate or political party to which he or she belongs and the owners or representatives of particular media organizations. [. . .]

Paid News : Full text of Press Council Sub-committee report
[PDF] 71 pages