A DAVP advertisement which appears in several newspapers today eliciting evidence on “paid news”.
The Supreme Court of India has upheld the life sentence awarded by the Delhi high court to Manu Sharma, the son of Congress leader and former Union minister Vinod Sharma, for killing Jessica Lal, who had declined to serve him a drink after the bar had closed in Delhi, in 1999.
Manu Sharma’s counsel, the noted criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani, had argued that his client had been specifically targetted and maligned before and during the proceedings by the media, which proclaimed him guilty even after the acquittal by the trial court.
Rejecting this argument, the SC bench said:
“Certain articles and news items appearing in the newspapers immediately after the date of occurrence did cause certain confusion in the mind of the public as to the description and number of the actual assailants/suspects. It is unfortunate that trial by the media did, though to a very limited extent, affect the accused, but [was] not tantamount to a prejudice which should weigh with the court in taking any different view.”
The veteran editor T.J. S. George writes that in his “misplaced protestations against the media”, Jethmalani lost sight of the fact that, for once, “trial by media” achieved something good, beyond anything he could have achieved.
“The media in India today is not exactly a clean entity. It has become, generally speaking, dubious in its motivations, mischievous in its pretensions, and plainly guilty in many of its practices.
“Large sections of it are corrupt.
“Amoral ideas have been institutionalised by the biggest players with fancy labels like “private treaties” and “paid news.” The guilty in the media too should one day be brought to justice.
“It is a bit of a miracle that a media that has abdicated its responsibility is still able to do some public good. It is the nature of its work that makes this possible.
“Malpractices, misdeeds and criminalities dot the activities of our governments, our politicians, our businessmen, our film stars and even our sports bodies. A great deal of this is brought to public attention only because the media, by default or otherwise, dare publish information the guilty try to suppress. We only have to recall the numerous scandals of recent times to appreciate the value of this service done by the media.
“The Jessica Lal case shows how the media, warts and all, and public spirited citizens and alert judicial authorities can work in tandem to keep at least a few of our influential criminals out of harm’s way. Justice is higher than a lawyer’s interest in his client. “
Read the full article: ‘Media is amoral, but it works’
Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph, Calcutta
The prostitution of Indian journalism by pimps, promoters and proprietors selling editorial space without letting the reader know what is independently verified news and what is a paid-for advertisement in the garb of news, has attained pandemic proportions.
“Paid News”, as the trend has been sadly named, happens not just during election time, but in between elections too. It afflicts not just the language media, but mainstream English media too. It is not just political news that is coloured, but business, sport, cinema and everything else, including the TV listings.
Above all, it is not something that small papers and extortionists are indulging in to keep their business going; it has become a revenue stream for profitable media organisations to keep the ink black on the bottomline, as trust and credibility are thrown to the wolves by suited-booted “managers”.
The Rajya Sabha, the election commission and the press council are all seized of the issue.
The country’s #1 business investigative journalist Sucheta Dalal who has written fearlessly on the subject—a trend that has deep implications for Indian democracy and reader trust in the media in the long run—throws light on a scandal in which India’s top filmmaker was held to ransom by “a leading media house”.
By SUCHETA DALAL
Moneylife has often commented on the brazen sale of news by a leading media house. However, we also acknowledged that the group usually made a win-win offer which was tough for companies to refuse. After all, which company would want to say no to something as lucrative as assured positive coverage, plus a steep discount in advertising tariffs, in return for a small equity stake?
However, in recent times, companies complain about the strong-arm tactics used by the group’s media arm.
Several companies have reported that they are told to appear first on the group’s media channel, during the quarterly results announcements. A print interview is thrown in as a carrot. Or they can face the stick: the prospect of being black-listed by its large circulation dailies.
As for the group’s city supplement, it is not only common knowledge that all its pages are for sale, but it has even dropped the pretence that its news and photographs are anything but paid publicity material.
Yet, the group still managed to shock us, with its recent strong-arm tactics against a top-grossing Hindi movie.
Its director told us how the media-selling arm of the publishing house approached him with a ‘publicity package’ which offered a number of articles and photographs for a price.
The director said a polite ‘No’. He would buy advertisements to publicise the movie, but the editorial would be up to the publication. But he was in for a shock. He was told that if he did not accept the package, there would be no editorial coverage of the movie in any of the group’s publications.
Given the stakes involved in the movie business, the director consulted his partners and friends in Bollywood. Many supported his stand, while there were others who were quite happy to accept the offer. However, our director-friend put his foot down and invited several like-minded producers to discuss the implications of what he calls the ‘dadagiri of this brand’.
The publishing house representative apparently said the director was making a needless fuss. After all, “film journalism is not serious journalism” (suggesting there are no ethical issues in buying editorial coverage).
What is most heartening is that, unlike wimpy corporate India, a dozen top producers and directors got together, discussed the issue and had the courage to say no, even though their stakes are significantly higher. The media house, realising that the issue could get out of hand, then backtracked and actually wrote a letter of apology for trying to pressure the industry.
The story had a happy ending, because the movie went on to set success records.
Why has this not made news? Because Bollywood also realises that it needs big media and is not idiot enough to shoot itself in the foot. Moneylife doffs its cap to the producers who had the guts to say ‘No’.