The ‘Paid News’ Co­nun­drum

Consumer Voice - - There Is A ‘paid News’ Epidemic -

As stated in the book Jour­nal­ism: Ethics and Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties by Paran­joy Guha Thakurta and Ujwala Up­paluri, “The au­ton­omy of the me­dia is meant to fa­cil­i­tate greater ac­count­abil­ity of pub­lic per­son­al­i­ties and re­duce cor­rup­tion. But when the me­dia it­self in­dulges in cor­rupt prac­tices, es­pe­cially dur­ing elec­tion cam­paigns, it se­ri­ously un­der­mines the pro­cesses and struc­tures that are meant to up­hold and strengthen democ­racy.”

The in­creas­ingly com­mon prac­tices of paid news and me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions be­ing sub­servient to a pow­er­ful few are es­tab­lished facts in most coun­tries (90 per cent of Amer­i­can me­dia is owned by just six com­pa­nies) and it is no dif­fer­ent in In­dia, even with its hal­lowed sta­tus as the fourth es­tate. As per the Reg­is­trar of News­pa­pers in In­dia, the to­tal num­ber of reg­is­tered pub­li­ca­tions as on 31 March 2015 was 105,443, with Hindi and then English pub­li­ca­tions lead­ing the way. The num­ber of TV house­holds in In­dia is cur­rently around 175 mil­lion and ex­pected to touch 200 mil­lion by 2020. On pa­per, this may seem a vin­di­ca­tion of the sheer vol­ume and di­ver­sity of the In­dian me­dia. How­ever, de­spite ap­pear­ances of be­ing ro­bust, noisy and plu­ral, the truth is that most of the me­dia is dom­i­nated by a few large con­glom­er­ates who, in turn, are con­trolled by the coun­try’s big­gest cor­po­rates and in­flu­en­tial politi­cians. De­spite ap­pear­ances of be­ing ro­bust, noisy and plu­ral, the truth is that most of the me­dia is dom­i­nated by a few large con­glom­er­ates who, in turn, are con­trolled by the coun­try’s big­gest cor­po­rates and in­flu­en­tial politi­cians. As ar­tic­u­lated in a 2013 TRAI re­port, the con­flict of in­ter­est that arises due to this kind of skewed own­er­ship re­sults in paid news, con­tin­u­ous lob­by­ing for favourable cov­er­age (and sup­pres­sion of neg­a­tive news items), sen­sa­tion­al­ist news and pro­pa­ganda, and pro­lif­er­a­tion of bi­ased anal­y­sis and opin­ion pieces with lit­tle ba­sis in facts.

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