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Q. Pay to publish: making paid news an electoral offence: Discuss how corruption in the Indian media undermines democracy.
Jun 30, 2017 Related to : GS Paper-2

Ans :

Introduction-

The phenomenon of “paid news” goes beyond the corruption of individual journalists and media companies. It has become pervasive, structured and highly organized and in the process, is undermining democracy in India. Large sections of society, including political personalities, those working in the media and others, have already expressed their unhappiness and concern about the pernicious influence of such malpractices.

Impact of corruption in the Indian media-

  • Malpractices have destroyed the credibility of the media itself and are, therefore, detrimental to its own long-term interests. It needs to be noted in this context that so long as journalists (in particular, those who work in non-urban areas) are paid poverty wages or are expected to earn their livelihood by doubling up as advertising agents working on commissions, such malpractices would continue to be rampant.
  • The commercial activities and market interests of media institutions might distort the role they play in the formation of public opinion and consequently in upholding principles and norms of democracy. Favourable coverage for those in positions of power and authority by the media, for commercial reasons, might influence the decisions made by these people.
  • Such malpractices enabled candidates contesting elections to not disclose their true expenditures on campaigning which, if made public, would have in certain cases violated the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, which have been framed by, and are meant to be enforced by, the Election Commission of India under the Representation of the People Act, 1951. The concerned newspapers and television channels received money for “paid news” in cash and not in the form of cheques and did not disclose such earnings in their official company balance sheets. 
  • Paid news on politicians and political parties subvert one of the most fundamental of democratic ideals: the purity of the vote.

Conclusion:

It is no surprise, then, that the paid news problem as an organized phenomenon appears rather intractable, involving as it does, lawmakers and politicians cutting across party lines and representatives of sections of the corporate media who coexist symbiotically. This nexus cannot be weakened easily. At the same time, in India, a more alert citizenry (including readers of newspapers and viewers of television channels) can and has made a difference in bringing the problem of paid news to the public domain. In addition, sections of the country's mass media (some of which are on the fringes of the so-called "mainstream") have highlighted -- and will hopefully continue to highlight -- this corrupt phenomenon. Still, not all those named have been shamed. However, there is currently greater awareness of real and present dangers that paid news poses to Indian democracy.

 


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