The Many Subterfuges of Mainstream Media
A highly detailed report on the issue of paid news in media, which ironically found little coverage in most mainstream media, was issued by the ministry of information and broadcasting in 2013. It examined the growing tendency of media companies in the country to pass off advertisements as legitimate news content. This is obviously done at the cost of deceiving the readers and creating a false narrative
The report brought to light the multi-crore shadowy industry born as a result of the convergence of editorial, advertising, PR and lobbying industries. The report also demonstrated how difficult it was to get information related to income and ad revenue of media groups. A 2010 report by a subcommittee of the Press Council of India (PCI) was scathing in its takedown of the epidemic of paid news, the unscrupulous tactics of ad selling, and the underhand dealings with politicians for favourable coverage. The committee itself refused to release the full report at that time—which did no good to its own credibility. However, the report managed to come out a year later thanks to the dogged efforts of a few (including the aforementioned Paranjoy Guha Thakurta). Most mainstream media simply chose to ignore the report. The response of most TV channels to a major takeover deal such as Network 18 is also conspicuous by its striking absence. Would those TV channels and newspapers remain mute had RIL decided to buy Future Group, Ola, or Flipkart? One thinks not. Even the Editors’ Guild of India had no comment on this development.