Two reports on paid news
Note: MediaVigil had released the original report of the Press Council's sub-committee on Paid News on May 21, 2010 as Press Council's Sub-committee Report on Paid News Scam.
Two reports on paid news
The Press Council subcommittee’s original report on Paid News, and the sanitised one that the Council membership finally accepted offer an interesting contrast. THE HOOT presents both.
Aug 11, 2010
On the 30th of July the Press Council put out a press release which was something of an anticlimax. It announced the release of the Council's report on Paid News, something that had been in the works since a sub-committee was appointed in July 2009.
The two members of this sub-committee, Kalimekolan Sreenivas Reddy and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, together with the Press Council of India Chairman Justice G.N. Ray, the Council's Secretary, Smt Vibha Bhargava and other members, met a wide cross-section of stake-holders in New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad and also perused through many letters and representations that were sent to the Council.
The subcommittee gave its report in April 2010, but it created consternation. Some council members argued that it would destroy the publishers' credibility and hurt their long term interest. So the report was referred to a larger group of Council members who had three months to decide how it should be presented.
The press release below outlines the findings and recommendations of a sanitised report. It is careful not to mention the names of publishers who indulged in paid news in the Lok Sabha elections of 2009, and in earlier state elections. The Hoot published these in May.
The Chairman of the Press Council Justice G N Ray who was reported to be in favour of the much longer original report which named names of offenders was outvoted in the final council meeting by a narrow margin.
The Hoot presents the official press release, the original report, the revised report, and other relevant links.
Press Release, Dated:30.07.2010.
Press Council releases its Report on ‘Paid news'
The Press Council of India in its meeting held on July 30, 2010 under the chairmanship of Hon'ble Mr. Justice G.R. Ray has placed in the public domain its Report on the issue of ‘Paid News'. Concerned over the serious dimensions acquired by the phenomenon of payment for news in the media in the General Elections 2009, the Council not only took cognizance of the matter suo motu but also considered representations from various eminent persons. The analysis of its Sub-Committee was studied by the Drafting Committee to prepare the final Report of the Council that was adopted on 30th July, 2010.
The Report defines Paid News as “Any news or analysis appearing in any media (Print & Electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration”.
The Report records that “Sections of the media in India have willy-nilly become participants and players in such 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. This has not merely undermined democracy in India but also tarnished the country's reputation.”
The election time paid news phenomenon has three dimensions. One, the reader or the viewer does not get a correct picture of the personality or performance of the candidate in whose favour or against he decides to cast his vote. This destroys the very essence of the democracy. Two, contesting candidates perhaps do not show it in their election expense account thereby violating the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, framed by the Election Commission of India under the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Third, those newspapers and television channels which received money in cash but did not disclose it in their official statements of accounts, have violated the Companies Act, 1956, as well as the Income Tax Act, 1961, besides other laws.
It was felt that there should be a clear distinction drawn between the managements and editorial staff in media companies and that the independence of the editor should be maintained and safeguarded.
The Election Commission of India should set up a special cell to receive complaints about ‘paid news' in the run-up to the conduct of elections and initiate a process through which expeditious action could be taken on the basis of such complaints.
There should be a debate among all concerned stakeholders on whether a directive of the Supreme Court of India that enjoins television channels to stop broadcasting campaign-related information on candidates and political parties 48 hours before elections take place should be extended to the print medium since such a restriction does not apply to this section of the media at present.
The Council suggests that efforts should be made to educate the voters to differentiate between the doctored reporting and the balanced and just reporting.
The Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry should conduct awareness-generating campaigns involving all stakeholders to deliberate on the issue and arrive at workable solutions to curb the ‘paid news' phenomenon in particular.
A small committee of Members of Parliament from both Houses should hold a hearing for suggesting changes in Representation of the People Act, 1951.
The Council feels that all these initiatives, if sincerely implemented, may not entirely stop such malpractices in the Indian media but could reduce their incidence to a considerable extent.
Representation of the People Act, 1951, be amended to make incidence of paid news a punishable electoral malpractice.
The Press Council of India must be fully empowered to adjudicate the complaints of ‘paid news' and give final judgment in the matter.
Press Council Act be amended to make its recommendations binding and electronic media be brought under its purview, and
Press Council of India should be reconstituted to include representatives from electronic and other media
The detailed report of the Council is attached and can also be accessed at Council's website: www.presscouncil.nic.in
The original report
The revised, sanitised, final report
The Empire strikes back ??" and how! P Sainath
'Conspiracy Of Silence'
Press Council Meeting
Who Voted How?