The media and paid news: Who shall guard the guardians?

December 24, 2009

INDIA-MEDIA/The media watches everyone but itself, commented an argumentative friend the other day.

How many ‘sting operations’ has the media done on any of its own, say on the ‘Paid News’ controversy?

I was at a loss.

The morality of sting operations is a debatable topic but the larger point demanded a response.

The media does investigative stories practically every week but does it deliberately avoid turning the gaze inwards?

Is everything as it should be with the Indian media – newspapers or television channels?

Even with the relatively free, noisy media we have it is difficult to answer that in the affirmative.

A fellow journalist recently lamented the declining standards of questions at a press conference by a Bollywood star.

Would she like to write about that?


Because as she explained it would be condescending in the first place, since it assumed her own questions always conformed to the standards demanded.

On top of that it meant alienating your own fellow professionals.

She couldn’t be more accurate.

Yet the problem has to be acknowledged.

There is more.

Take the controversy over ‘paid news’ which involves entering into deals with politicians or corporates to pass off views and product promotion as news.

The Press Council of India has set up a committee to look into it.

It was reported that the committee has enough evidence.

The Editors’ Guild denounced the phenomena of paid content.

According to reports, some executives in the news business accept being paid for news in private but won’t do it in public.

The upshot is hackneyed but bears repetition — it is easier to preach and prescribe than practise.

No exceptions or are there?

Till then, Bollywood rushes in where the media fears to tread, with movie ‘Rann’ purporting to hold a mirror to news media, releasing next year.

Is that the best we can do? Will that be enough?


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I have an old saying about the masses and the mass media. Here goes…
“The IGNORANT MASSES are ASSES. This is nothing NEW to the few who KNEW.”

My point? When the common citizen around the world finally wakes up and stops being so god damn IGNORANT, they will then be able to figure out what’s news “worthy” and what’s just crap or inconsequential reporting. I’m simply amazed at how much IGNORANCE there is in the world — in your country India, here throughout Africa, and even in the so-called West where I’m from. Heck, ignorance — not malaria, HIV/AIDS, TB, typhoid, strep, etc. — is the most SERIOUS “dis-ease” afflicting wo/man kind.


– Maxwell (aka Max “The IT pro”)

Posted by MaxTheITpro | Report as abusive

In Andhra Pradesh alone, paid news is worth anywhere between Rs 300 cr and Rs 1000 crore as per P Sainath, the famous investigative jounalist.

Posted by hanmireddy | Report as abusive

Nice blog. Pleasantly surprised to see a critique of the media, from its own quarters.

Wonder if such self-reflexive portrayals can be managed in the upper echelons of television media of the country.

Films have suddenly become great fora for media bashing.

I particularly liked what Balki did in Paa – with the character played by Abhishek, a young politician in the film, getting back at the media (portrayed, I must say, with the right amount of exaggeration).

Cinema is reflecting and addressing the issues of media manipulation, and a sort of tyranny that it has unleashed of late. Although, it was a theme that got wasted in the bigger scheme of things in this particular film (Paa), other films have touched on it, sometimes in a lighter vein, as well.

I am particularly looking forward to the film you mentioned, Rann, and what RGV is going to showcase.

Posted by Urvashi.Sibal | Report as abusive

Glad you wrote on this, Vishal.

I recently came back to India after a few years of living abroad and incidentally this thought crossed my mind while I was flipping through our local news channels.

However, I found that your write-up lacked any deep investigation or reflection with too many questions posed for the reader.

Interesting comments by all the readers above me.

Posted by NeilMukherjee | Report as abusive