As I read this morning's Pune editions, I came across a line casually mentioning the paid news syndrome in a Marathi daily. The coverage was about Pune Union of Working Journalists felicitating local MLAs on their getting elected to the Maharashtra State Assembly last month. This Marathi newspaper said the MLAs expressed concern over the syndrome.
Later in the day, I received the following story forwarded by Mahesh Vijapurkar:
November 16, 2009
The Press Council of India (PCI) has set up a committee to study the "paid news syndrome", or entering into monetary deals with politicians to pass off their views as news items, in the recent elections, its chairman Justice (retd) G.N. Ray said on Monday. "A committee has been set up to collect inputs from various parts of the country and make in-depth study of the malady of paid news syndrome in elections and to make its recommendation to the council," he said.
Addressing a conference on "Changing face of Indian media" on the occasion of National Press Day Monday, the PCI chairman said in the recent elections, media "indulged in nefarious monetary deals with some politicians and candidates by publishing their views as news items and by publishing news items against rival candidates". Observing that media, like other institutions, had succumbed to the vice of malpractices and corruption, he said: "Yellow journalism and blackmailing were known forms of corruption in journalism but today, a subtle and implicit form of corruption is creating greater mischief." "The distortion, disinformation and paid news syndrome aimed to serve certain interests and suppression of news and concerns of other interests have become a usual feature in media," he added.
Voicing concern over media turning into a commercial enterprise and the newspaper into a commodity, he said the media was being driven by market forces. He noted that big national level newspapers, owned by corporate houses, were being run to derive more profits like commercial enterprises. "The media driven by market forces and in unending urge to make more profits, is indulging in trivialization, sensationalisation and tainted corporate communication." Ray also expressed concern over trial by media, incorrect reporting of court cases and devaluation of the office of editor.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah said sections of media had become mouthpieces of their proprietors. "The proprietors running a host of businesses besides the media have utilised their outlets to protect their business interests and carry on a campaign against their perceived opponents." He said sections of media indulging in paid coverage especially during elections were undermining the democracy, and appealed to PCI to arrest such media aberrations since any government intervention in media freedom would be "a remedy worse than the disease".