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मंगलवार, 1 दिसंबर 2009

बिकता है मीडिया खरीदने वाला चाहिए.....एक दिसंबर का मेल टुडे पढ़िए

(मेल टुडे से साभार)

When the press sells itself to politicos
By Pratul Sharma in New Delhi
Scanner on media for publishing articles in favour of poll- bound candidates in exchange of crores
THE Press Council of India ( PCI) has set up a panel to probe the allegation that some newspapers and television channels had sold editorial space to several candidates before the last Lok Sabha and recent Assembly elections.
This adds fodder to the fact that the distinction between news and advertisement is fast blurring and that propaganda of many politicians are indeed masquerading as news.
In other words, publicity material supplied by some political parties about their candidates was published without verification in newspapers in exchange of money. Though these candidates with deep pockets have been willing partners to the illegal act, other candidates have kept quiet, taking care not to offend prominent media houses.
A group of senior journalists have been demanding a thorough probe into the incidents and the required course correction for the media. After journalists such as the late Prabash Joshi, Kuldeep Nayar, George Verghese, Ajit Bhattacharjee and Harivansh wrote a letter to the PCI on this issue last June, a three- member committee to probe the allegations and suggest guidelines has been set up.
Nayar also submitted a separate representation to the Election Commission ( EC), requesting it to probe the matter.
The EC can take cognisance of such complaints under the Representation of the People Act as money spent for paid news is unaccounted for but should have been shown as valid poll expense.
The scathing letter states, “ News reports were financed with slush funds, accounts of which are with neither the candidates nor the newspapers. The editors and journalists were paid with black money as well.” Nayar wrote to the EC: “ During the last Lok Sabha elections, many in the print and electronic media charged for what they said in favour of a party or candidate.
At a seminar in Delhi the other day, human resource development minister Kapil Sibal contended that he knew how the stories were planted and paid for.
A top BJP leader has told me that he would give evidence if an inquiry committee was set up to look into the matter.” Though “ media packages” were sold to candidates and political parties as space is sold to advertisers, readers had no way of knowing the news stories they were reading were paid for or planted by the candidates.
“ The trend was by and large limited to vernacular and Hindi newspapers and channels in the states,” Nayar said, adding that mainstream English papers were left untouched by this trend.
News packages were sold for Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh, according to details submitted to the PCI. The rate cards of Hindi dailies such as the Dainik Jagran , Dhanbad and Hindustan , Jamshedpur, and articles written by Joshi, the former Wall Street Journal ( WSJ ) bureau chief, who was investigating the trend was appended with the letter.
A WSJ report said as many as 10 people approached an Independent candidate in Chandigarh offering him to give him election coverage for three weeks in four newspapers for Rs 10 lakh. Needless to say, no receipt is given to the politicians in transactions of this kind. The report mentioned that the interested candidates were also asked to buy a few thousand copies of a particular newspaper at Rs 10 each copy.
Nayar said though the trend was present earlier also, it became blatant in the current Lok Sabha and the state elections.
“ I am told that crores were spent by political parties in Haryana for getting favourable election coverage,” Nayar added.
“ If campaign material is disguised as news reports, it violates the citizens’ right to knowledge. I have asked the EC to set up an inquiry committee to expose the people who were involved. Those who give evidence against the tainted must be protected,” the senior journalist said.
The letter submitted to the PCI sums up the Fourth Estate’s sorry state of affairs: “ This means there was no independent journalistic coverage during the polls। This signifies the end of journalism itself because nobody was working with an unbiased approach।”

By Mail Today Bureaux
This year’s parliamentary polls and assembly elections, according to senior journalist Kuldeep Nayar, saw part of the media sold out to rich candidates. A close look at four states seems to confirm the shocking degradation of the Fourth Estate
LALJI Tandon, the BJP MP from Lucknow, said BSP rival Akhilesh Das paid a Hindi newspaper to publish negative articles about him in the run- up to the last Lok Sabha polls.
“ I have spent four decades in politics but never felt comfortable to see such kind of private treaties. I am not against advertisements. But striking an unholy deal and booking editorial space is shameful. I would prefer to lose an election instead of playing this game”, Tandon said.
It’s another thing that the veteran BJP leader still won comfortably but he confesses to being no squeaky clean politician either. “ I have obliged this newspaper on many occasions. In fact, it has survived in Uttar Pradesh because of me,” Tandon candidly admitted at a press meet this April. “ But the kind of campaign it has started against me at the behest of Das is unprecedented.
I am not going to bow down before the newspaper at any cost.” About Rs 250 crore to Rs 300 crore allegedly exchanged hands unofficially in UP during the poll campaign when “ filthy rich candidates” individually bought space in newspapers for 15 to 30 days.
“ Newspapers not only entered an unholy alliance to lie in favour of one candidate and against another, but also earned crores in black money.
Editorial staff was deployed to write articles in favour of rich candidates who paid up,” Ashok Mishra, secretary of the UP unit of the CPI, said.
Rajya Sabha member and local businessman Das, who contested from Lucknow seat as a Bahujan Samaj Party ( BSP) candidate, had emerged as one of the most notorious players in this game, according to Tandon.
While criticising the top- ranking Hindi newspaper for its deal with Das, Tandon revealed that the management of the paper told him he could also enter into a deal with the paper. “ Pay and book equal space in our newspaper for yourself,” Tandon was told when he squared off with the management over the articles against him.
A Kanpur- based journalist took the story forward। “ Maybe Tandon doesn’t feel comfortable playing the game but his own party candidate from Kanpur, Satish Mahana, and the Congress’s Sri Prakash Jaiswal ( minister of state for coal) bought spaces in three Hindi and two English newspapers before this year’s polls,” he claimed.

Jhansi Congress candidate Pradeep Jain Aditya, as the journalist put it, “ dominated all other candidates in his constituency”. “ It paid dividend because he is the minister of state for rural development now,” said the journalist, who was “ forced to keep in touch with these politicians and write about them”. The trick that the newspapers and television channels play, according to him, is print and telecast negative news against many candidates to pressure them to enter a deal with the media. “ In most of the cases, the politicians succumb to the pressure,” the journalist added.

Ajay Kumar, a former senior reporter of a news channel who was posted in Lucknow, chuck his job just before the last Lok Sabha elections after his Delhi- based editorial chief asked him to demand money from all those candidates he was planning to interview.

‘ PAY up or lose out’ was the mantra in this year’s Lok Sabha elections in Bihar as well, claimed Dr Diwakar Tejaswi, one of those in the poll fray।
“ It is true that many newspapers in the state sold space to show a candidate in good light during the polls,” Tejaswi, a renowned medical practitioner, said.
He had contested the polls on a Bharat Uday Mission Party ticket from the Patna Sahib constituency.
“ All leading Hindi newspapers, except one, sought money from me for giving coverage to my campaign,” he said.
Tejaswi, who was pitted against the likes of the BJP’s Shatrughan Sinha and Congress nominee Shekhar Suman, said the “ coverage rates” were so steep that it was impossible for “ ordinary contestants like him” to afford them.
“ The rates were in the range of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh for a fourday coverage,” he said.
Many vernacular dailies in the state blatantly offered space for “ exclusive” coverage of the candidates’ election campaign and the rates depended on the size of the story, Tejaswi said.
While some Hindi dailies offered the ‘ election package’ in the garb of an ‘ advertorial’ initiative of their marketing team, others simply put them in the form of news items with scant regard for journalistic ethics.
Calling the trend “ highly condemnable”, Tejaswi said such practices would “ enable the corrupt, the criminal and the rich to misuse the power of the press”. Another Lok Sabha candidate in the fray from the same constituency, Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Vijay Kumar Sahu, also admitted that some of the Hindi newspapers had demanded money from him in return of publishing his election coverage. “ I would not like to name any particular newspaper but it is true that I had to pay money to get some space in the newspapers,” he said.
Dubbing it as a dangerous trend that would undermine the power of journalism, he said it would deprive the poor and underprivileged candidates of genuine coverage of their campaign and would turn “ newspapers into the mouthpiece of the high and the mighty who would buy pages after pages for their exclusive coverage”. Sahu admitted to using “ the facility” during the polls but said he “ did not stand a chance for the rivals were far richer”.

‘ CASH for news’ may have come to light only now but former MLA Hardev Arshi claims the trend was “ introduced” in Punjab and Haryana during the 2007 assembly elections itself.
Arshi, a member of the CPI’s national council, said during the 2007 polls, his party refused to pay for coverage in vernacular newspapers. But it was “ forced to give in” when newspapers refused to cover CPI events and political rallies.
“ Finally, we had to shell out about Rs 70,000 for advertisements and coverage in a constituency during the assembly elections in 2007,” Arshi said.
“ The Press Council of India or some statutory authority should look into the matter,” he added.
A politician said money to the media organisations — many of them owned by individual business houses — was paid in cash.
In fact, in many cases, the management also issued instructions to reporters to favour particular candidates. Usually, the stories of such candidates were published in the newspaper’s “ reserved space”, he added.
As another politician put it: “ Newspapers took money in advance for publishing positive stories about the candidates.
Those who refused to pay were completely blacked out.” Sources said the majority of media organisations — especially the regional press — had become commercialised, but added that the English press was largely immune to the trend.
Revealing the modus operandi, a journalist in Bathinda, Punjab, said his newspaper reserved space for “ paid” editorial pieces and charged in cash. This meant the parties or the candidates got rid of the need of issuing advertisement release orders or obtaining bills against them.

IN GUJARAT, no one dares to go on record over the issue of ‘ paid news’. It remains an unacknowledged fact, however, that editorial space in newspapers is indeed sold to political parties for election coverage.
An experienced campaign manager from the BJP said, “ The common practice is that parties are charged at the rate of centimetre per column for such pieces.” A top Congress leader said local vernacular dailies charge political parties at the prevailing advertising rates. They even develop “ special packages” for parties depending on the market situation.
Another veteran politician said, “ Payments are mostly made directly to the owners of the newspapers.”
By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow, Vikas Kahol in Chandigarh, Giridhar Jha in Patna and D। P. Bhattacharya in Ahmedabad

The cash- for- news concept is not new
By Mail Today Bureau in New Delhi
THE “ PAID news” debate sparked by an extensive “ cash- for- election- coverage” expose concerning Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan is not new.
The first officially blessed manifestation of this idea was called Medianet, an initiative by Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd ( BCCL), the publishers of The Times of India . Aimed at stopping journalists from taking money to get stories published, the BCCL management decided to charge fashion designers, corporates, socialites and NGOs to be featured in some of its supplements such as Bombay Times and Delhi Times . Medianet, now called Optimal Media Solutions, even had a rate card for specific displays.
In 2008, The TOI initiated what is called Private Treaties, a division that picks up equity in companies in exchange for advertising inventory. It was alleged ( though never proven) that because of Private Treaties, the ventures could also escape unfavourable coverage in the TOI and its sister publications.
The model was so successful that other media houses such as Hindustan Times , NDTV , Dainik Bhaskar , Network18 , and Dainik Jagran also adopted it.
A former Medianet employee, who now works for a large corporate, says: “ All payments for Medianet were above board. At least in the initial phase, a Medianet story had a legend against it so that the reader could differentiate it from other stories. It was later discontinued after the advertisers complained that they wanted the photo or report to look like a genuine news story.” The former BCCL employee also says The TOI was perhaps the only paper which had a legitimate, above- board division to look into this. “ There are several newspapers, especially in the Hindi and regional language press, which take money on the sly for favourable coverage. One of the largestselling newspapers in Gujarat, for instance, routinely gives favourable coverage to politicians and companies for a price.” An industry observer says the success of Private Treaties inspired HT to start its own “ Partnership for Growth” division.
HT did not buy equity in the companies; instead it offered them barters for unsold advertising inventory.
“ There have been instances when newspapers and television channels, which have adopted this model, have compromised editorial space and airtime in favour of their partners,” he says. “ This happens routinely in the vernacular newspapers in which the proprietors are often in collusion with politicians who have a cap on their campaign spend.” The ex- Medianet employee says the paid news model also works. “ A second- level Indian software company bought editorial space in a leading British newspaper and in a US newspaper. Top corporates usually avoid it in India, but PR executives pitch for favourable coverage for their clients by bribing journalists and proprietors in cash or kind.”

ACCUSING Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan of indulging in electoral malpractice, the BJP on Monday asked the Election Commission ( EC) to order a probe into the issue.
They demanded Chavan’s election be declared as invalid.
BJP vice- president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who led a delegation to chief election commissioner Navin Chawla, alleged that Chavan had violated the Representation of the People Act by furnishing false information to the EC. He alleged that Chavan had spent crores to get full- page coverage in several newspapers but showed a little over Rs 5,000 on print advertisement according to records submitted to the EC. Naqvi said the EC assured the delegation that it will look into the matter.
BJP’s Prakash Javadekar said the full- page advertisements came in the form of news items, praising Chavan.

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