Media in India have long
argued for self
regulation; against government control and censorship. The
Council of India was set up to help the objective of
self-regulation. Though the Council did succeed in
ground rules and building up case laws on journalistic ethics,
not control wayward journalists and publishers.
Now the Editors Guild of India has thrown in the towel. It has
the Election Commission to take strong action against
media persons for paid news used for election publicity.
Paid news or packaging of advertisements as news has existed
time now. It assumed more serious proportions when it was used
campaigning in the Lok Sabha polls in 2006 and Maharastra
elections in 2009.
Paid news undermines the basic precincts of journalism. It
news, abandoning the separation between news and
it cheats the readers.
However, tackling it is easier said than done. There are a
ways in which business houses and politicians influence
publishers. Paid news is only one. The difference now is that
of the media is now directly demanding payment for publication
The Election Commission can deal with publication of campaign
advertisements in the form of news under Section 10A of the
Representation of People Act. However, its powers are limited
confined to matters connected to election campaign and
Besides, identification of advertisements masquerading as news
always easy. Besides, frivolous complaints cannot be ruled out
Commission starts taking action.
During campaigns, candidates may file complaints against
adverse comments or reports about them, saying that they were
Moreover, there are complaints that newspapers refused
the candidates refused to pay money. This is not always easy
that would always happen in a market where news is being paid
Many cases could be clinched only if it is proved that money
changed hands. This would often require police investigation.
So, it is not surprising that the Commission has asked the
Council to draw up broad guidelines to identify
items and paid news masquerading as advertisement. The
also been asked to come up with concrete suggestions on how to
with the problem.
It is evident that the Commission alone would not be able to
problem which is not confined to election coverage and
If the Press Council and Editor’s organizations fail to tackle
issue, legislation might be the only answer.
Related links (Updated):
the Subcommittee of Press Council of India on paid news
Press Council of India
Copy of Election Commission of
instructions on 'Paid News'