The Wall Street Journal‘s bureau chief in India, Paul Beckett, has a major piece on the rampant corruption in the Indian media in the ongoing election coverage, with advertising masquerading as news for a fee, and neither readers nor voters being told about the deal.
Brokers, he writes, are offering package deals for coverage in newspapers, for front-page pictures, for interviews, for printing press releases verbatim, etc.
Thankfully, he reassures us that “the best-known English-language dailies typically don’t do it so blatantly”.
Beckett quotes the former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami as saying that he had heard of newspapers having a rate card for positive coverage and another for not negative coverage, and that this is not something that can be ignored.
“The nation’s newspapers usually play either vigilante cop exposing wrongdoing in the public interest (on a good day, at a few publications) or spineless patsy killing stories on the orders of powerful advertisers. Many papers also engage in practices that cross the ethical line between advertising and editorial in a way that is opaque, if not downright obscure, to readers.
“But it is of another order of magnitude to see reporters, editors and newspaper owners holding the democratic process to ransom. A free (in every sense) press is an integral part of a vibrant democracy. A corrupt press is both symptom and perpetrator of a rotten democracy.”
Read the full article: Want press coverage? Give me some money
Also read: Forget the news, you can’t trust the ads either
Sucheta Dalal on selling news and buying silence
The scoreline: different strokes for different folks
Salil Tripathi: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility
In prosperous Gujarat, everybody can buy media