sans serif wishes all its readers, in every part of the globe, a very happy new year. May all your hopes, dreams, prayers and fantasies come good in the year ahead. And may each day turn out just the way you want it to.
24×7 news television took another small leap at the cremation of the Kannada movie star Vishnuvardhan in Bangalore on Wednesday, 30 December 2009.
Priests conducting the final rites of the devout star chanted vedic hymns into the microphones of the Kannada news channels which were broadcasting the ceremony live.
Video grab: courtesy TV9
B.G. Verghese in Deccan Herald:
“As the year closes, one must with sadness and shame pen a lament for the Indian media…. We must lament a disgraceful fall in standards as revealed by well documented stories of the sale of electoral coverage by sections of the news media through ‘packages’ relating to the kind of treatment sought.
“What earlier seemed an isolated, low-level viral outbreak appears to have gained virulence and epidemic proportions.
“Alarm bells have sounded. The matter is too serious to be left to drift. Maybe the Press Registration Act needs review to entrench the position of the editor who is even now responsible for everything published, including advertisements.
“Can the law require public interest directors to be appointed to boards of all media houses from tiered panels to act as guardians of the public interest? The establishment of self-regulatory bodies for the broadcast media by no means precludes the necessity for mandatory broadcast regulations as found in every part of the world. This need not curb media freedom. Fast driving requires good brakes. Should ‘private (ads for shares) treaties’ be required to be mandatorily disclosed by the paper/channel concerned? Can the Election Commission compel separate accounting of all advertisements and advertorial support for candidates under election expense?
“These are obviously extremely sensitive and complex matters that impinge on freedom of expression. But when freedom becomes license, democracy is in peril.”
Read the full article: Lament for the media
The following is the full text of the statement issued by the Editors’ Guild of India on Wednesday, 23 December 2009, on the issue of “paid-for news”:
The Editors Guild of India is deeply shocked and seriously concerned at the increasing number of reports detailing the pernicious practice of publishing “paid news’” by some newspapers and television channels, especially during recent elections.
The Guild, at its annual general meeting held on 22 December 2009 has strongly condemned this practice which whittles the foundations of Indian journalism and calls upon all editors in the country to desist from publishing any form of advertisement which masquerade as news.
The Guild noted that it had always stood for publication of news which is in public interest; news which has been gathered due to the professional efforts of journalists; and news which is not influenced by malice, bias, favouritism or monetary influence.
The Guild recognises that news media in print and electronic form, has a genuine right to publish and broadcast advertisements on all issues, subject to the voluntary Advertising Standards Council code and the News Broadcasting Standards Code.
It is imperative that news organisations have to clearly distinguish between news and advertisements with full and proper disclosure norms, so that no reader and viewer is tricked by any subterfuge of advertisements published and broadcast in the same format, language and style of news.
It is disturbing that this “paid news” practice is also being used by companies, organisations and individuals, apart from political parties.
The Guild further deplores the practice of “private treaties” where news organisations accept free equity in unlisted companies in lieu of promoting these companies through news columns and television news programmes. The news organisations should disclose their commercial and equity interests in such companies to the readers and viewers in a transparent manner.
The Guild decries the unsavoury and unacceptable practice of some political parties and candidates offering payment for “news packages” to news media and its representatives to publish and telecast eulogising and misleading news reports on the political parties.
Both the media organisations and editors who indulge in it, and the customers who offer payment for such “paid news” are guilty of undermining the free and fair press, for which every citizen of India is entitled to.
Such irresponsible acts by a few media organisations and journalists is discrediting the entire media of the country, which has a glorious tradition of safeguarding democratic rights and exposing all kinds of injustices and inequities.
Editors and journalists have been at the vanguard of the movement for creation of a just society, both during the days of colonial rule and Independent India. The ugly phenomenon of “paid news” will be a blot on the country’s democratic fabric.
The Guild calls upon publishers, editors and journalists of media organisations to unitedly fight this creeping menace of commercialisation and bartering of self respect of the media. During the coming months, the Guild will join hands with other media organisations to sensitize the media and civil society, including political parties and the Election Commission, on the need to eliminate this unacceptable practice.
The Guild will be shortly unveiling an initiative to encourage transparency regarding “paid news” and “private treaties.” We appeal to all stakeholders to join us in pushing for a clean, transparent media.
Rajdeep Sardesai, president of the guild, announced the formation of an ethics committee headed by T.N. Ninan, editor in chief, Business Standard. The members are B G Varghese, editor & columnist; Sumit Chakravartty, editor, Mainstream, and Madhu Kishwar, editor, Manushi.
Sheela Bhatt of rediff.com reports that Delhi-based journalist Rahul Bedi, longtime defence correspondent of Jane’s Defence Weekly, and an occasional contributor to the The Daily Telegraph, London, and Irish Times, Dublin, has abandoned his sport utility vehicle and now cycles all around town.
“I have taken to cycling since the last three to four years. In the last two years, I drove my car almost 300 to 400 km a month, but I cycle about 900 km a month. Sometimes I cycle more than 1,000 km a month. I cycle for work and also for pleasure. I surely cycle for 40 to 50 km for about five days a week.”
Photograph: courtesy rediff.com
View the video here: Pedalling 45 km a day
Read Rahul Bedi’s account here: ‘It’s practical’
A barely disguised front-page ad in today’s Daily News & Analysis (DNA), the joint venture between Zee News and Dainik Bhaskar, on the “paid news” syndrome that has gained enormous traction in recent weeks.
The Hindu exposed the discrepancy between the Maharashtra chief minister’s ad expenditure and news coverage; The Indian Express did a two-part series on the institutional transgressions; and Outlook* has a cover story.
* Disclosures apply
The Express Institute of Media Studies, set up by the Indian Express group, is inviting applications for its 2010 programme. The last date for submission of application forms is 31 January 2010.
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Also read: Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach?