Paid news major threat to media, says Ansari

Expressing concern over media freedom, Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari said, on Saturday, that paid news and declining roles of the editors and their editorial freedom was posing a "major threat" to the media.

"Certain media related developments in the country are raising questions regarding its objectivity and credibility. Paid news and the declining roles of the editors and their editorial freedom is posing a major threat to the Indian media," Ansari said.

He made this remark while addressing the 17th biennial session of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Ansari said that the involvement of big business into the media and market domination are posing a serious threat to media freedom. He pointed out that a report on cross-media ownership in India prepared by the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) had, in the year 2009, reported that 11 of the top 23 television networks had stakes in print and radio.
"Most of India's 300 odd news channels are making losses and are dependent on dubious cross holding, black money and dodgy private equity investors both foreign and Indian," he said.

Ansari said that a recent paper issued by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), had confirmed that there was a direct link between uncontrolled ownership, paid news and corporate and political lobbying by the private news channels.

This, he said, was leading to biased analysis and forecasts both in the political arena as well as the corporate sector.

The Vice President, while quoting the Trai report, said that if irresponsible reporting and sensationalism had to be curbed, then media ownership had to be regulated.

Ansari made a strong pitch for the establishment of a statutory “Media Council”, which would work as a regulatory body for both the print media and the electronic media.

He suggested that this “Media Council” should comprise of eminent personalities but should not include media owners and other interested parties. "The need for a comprehensive corrective action is imperative and must be undertaken without delay. A failure to do so would lend credence to widely expressed apprehensions regarding the role of special interests," he added.

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