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Introduction and Case Facts Update

The issue of paid media has become very prominent in recent times. It violates the freedom of the
press and the citizens which are essential for a democratic nation. Recently during Lok Sabha
elections of 2014, this issue got widespread coverage due to political parties paying for news. Other
recent cases include the following.

Shri P. Sainath shared his findings on the issue of paid media. He stated that the market for
paid news was huge. He estimated the size of the market in a state like Andhra Pradesh to be
in the range of Rs. 3 billion to Rs. 10 billion. He also mentioned that in states like Uttar
Pradesh, there are news agencies which sell packages to politicians for publishing news
which favoured them. The report presented by him is titled Paid News: How corruption in
the Indian media undermines Indian democracy. The report states that there are three levels
of deception involved. First, the reader is deceived into believing the fake news. Second,
politicians violate the budget constraint for elections specified by law by paying hefty
amounts for their news. Third, by not accounting for the money received in such manner,
news agencies violate various tax laws and company laws.
The Press Council of India set up a two member committee to examine the issue of paid
news. The committee comprised of Srinivas Reddy and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. More
information can be found in their report: Paid News: The Buried Report.

Questions and Answers


1. How can paid media reflect objective reality when it is obliged to patronize the views and news of
the owners or of those who pay? Explain.
Paid media can only reflect objective reality when it takes firm measures to avoid such malpractices
and takes a stand against those who do it. An agency which is involved in such acts cannot be
expected to present unbiased and objective news to the public because it would be obliged to please
those who pay. In order to able to present objective reality it is essential for them to be free from the
unjust control of corporate houses and political parties. The freedom can only be restored if payments
from such power houses are rejected.
2. What is the overall positive and negative impact of the paid media upon peoples right for all
important and objective news? Discuss.
Paid media is a double edged sword. It has two faces to it. Although it is largely seen as a social evil
for all of its negative impacts, but it has some positive aspects too.
Positive impacts of Paid News:

The media has become very proficient in reporting news professionally. There is a deliberate
attempt by many conscious news agencies to not fall for money and power and this in turn
forces to be very professional in their approach. This also leads to reporting of objective and
real news to the people.
Since there are big corporate houses and conglomerates behind paid news, this yields greater
access for news agencies to their internal affairs and makes it available for reporting to the
public.

As a result of paid news there is large funding by bigshots to media houses. Due to this, news
agencies have greater resources to be technologically advanced and disseminate information
in a much faster and efficient manner.

Negative impacts of Paid News:

The media has become an instrument for corporates and political parties to advertise the kind
of news they want the public to see. This takes away the essential freedom from a news
agency which is required for reporting of unbiased, real and objective news.
Paid media results in distortion of the views and opinions of the people in general. They
receive news which is biased and far from truth to suit the requirements of the corporate
houses and political parties.
Media houses treat news as a product rather than a service. They sell news which would bring
more viewership and create more buzz. They should rather treat it as a service to the public
and provide objective and real news.

From the above analysis we see that the negatives of paid media are more than the positives. This is
the reason why such a social evil must be tackled.
3. How do paid media violate the rights of the Indian consumer public? Explain.
Each and every individual in the country is entitled to correct, true, objective and unbiased news and
information. The consumer pays to the news agencies for receiving such news about the happenings
in the nation which provides a true picture of the state of affairs. They tend to form their opinions and
likings based on such news. Even the constitution states that each person is entitled to freedom of
speech and has the right to information. Media plays a big role in facilitating such rights. They have
an important role in the society wherein people trust them for their work.
Paid Media violates all such rights and entitlements of the people. Consumers who pay for real news
are defrauded when they receive biased and twisted news. They start believing unreal news and form
opinions based on it. This is how the rights of the Indian consumer public are violated by paid
media.
4. How do paid media violate the duties of the Indian media to the consumer public? Explain.
As discussed above, it is the duty of media to provide real, objective, true and unbiased news to the
public in the society. The consumer public places their faith in them to disseminate information about
the affairs of the nation in an objective and neutral manner. There is also a fiduciary relationship that
the media has with the consumer public which dictates them to provide reality and facts to the public.
Paid Media results in dissemination of biased and unreal news to the public by media houses which
has only one purpose: satisfy the agenda of the paying party. This leads media away from their
original purpose of providing objective and real news. They do not fulfil their duty as defined above.
This is how paid media violates the duties of media to the consumer public.
5. How do paid media compromise news reporting and coverage rights in a democratic country?
The media can no longer be classified as independent entities. They are owned directly or indirectly
by corporate houses and political parties. The news they provide is often biased and only for the
purpose of fulfilling some underlying motive which has nothing to do with dissemination of objective
news.

Our nation is the biggest democracy in the world. Democracy works on the principle of transparency
and mutual trust. Media plays a big role in ensuring that a democracy runs smoothly. It is supposed to
keep the public informed about all the true happenings and affairs of the nation in an unbiased
manner. Off late, it has been noticed that due to paid media there has been uneven distribution of
critical news and coverage rights in the country. It has been done to favour some sections of the
society. This kind of favouritism which is a consequence of paid media has compromised the news
reporting and coverage rights in our democratic country.
6. Can media assume to be the national or state conscience of India without jeopardizing individual
and collective consciences resulting from ones religions and cultures?
It cannot be assumed that media can be the national or state conscience of India without jeopardizing
individual and collective consciences resulting from ones religions and cultures. India is a nation with
diversity of religions and cultures. Each and every religion/culture has its own beliefs and sentiments.
It is not possible for media to take into account the sentiments of each and every religion/culture and
at the same time provide unbiased and objective news. On the other hand, some caution in showing
everything explicitly must be taken to make sure that the sentiments of any religion are not hurt
deeply. This could lead to unpleasant situations in the country. Hence, it cannot be assumed that media
can be nations conscience without harming religious and cultural sentiments.
7. What corrective measures would you suggest for immediate enforcement such that democracy and
freedom of the press and of the citizens are safeguarded?
In order to curb the maleficent practice of paid media, it is important to have strict legal structures and
regulatory framework in place for penalizing the violators. The media houses themselves should start
rejecting such offers from power houses and report the culprit to respective authorities. Stricter
penalties and firm laws and regulations would ensure that the evil of paid media is wiped out from the
country. This would ensure that the freedom of the press and the citizens of the democratic nation are
safeguarded.
Conclusion/Learning
Through this case we learn that no right can be enjoyed without performing ones duties and
responsibilities. The media agencies have a moral duty and responsibility towards the nation and its
citizens. They must realize its importance and provide objective reality to the consumer public. They
should not indulge in unethical practices and violate their moral obligations.