A panel discussion involving eminent personalities like Arun Shourie, well known author and Member of the Rajya Sabha; Aroon Purie, Chairman, India Today Group; KVL Narayan Rao, Group CEO, NDTV; Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India Pvt Ltd; Aruna Roy, Founder and Head of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan; Raj Nayak, Managing Director, Aidem Ventures; and Prasoon Joshi, Executive Chairman, McCann Group, threw up several provocative points to ponder regarding paid news. The panel discussion, titled ‘Good News is Paid News: and Credibility is for sale’, was held on the occasion of Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards, organised by The Indian Express Group on July 22, 2010. President Pratibha Patil was the Chief Guest at the event.
The panel discussion was moderated by Nidhi Razdaan of NDTV and Archana Shukla of Indian Express.
The panel was unanimously against paid news, however, they agreed that anomalies existed, which had de-famed the whole industry. Politicians present in the audience admitted that they had been made offers, whereby the election campaigns of their respective parties would be covered if they were willing to pay a whooping sum to the media owners.
According to Arun Shourie, “There is a conspiracy of silence in all professions. And the press, for its own sake, should write candidly about itself.” He was replying to a question on lack of journalistic investigation on the matter of paid news.
KVL Narayan Rao said “Paid news is nothing but corruption, and it has to be treated as such. To run a robust organisation, one needs quality journalists and not paid news. Getting money by unfair means is a short-term strategy. Eventually, the credibility goes for a toss and viewers are going to switch of the channels.”
Aruna Roy suggested that the media owners should sit together and set up a regulatory body to keep paid news under check, as the Press Council did not appear to be working the way it should.
Taking a different viewpoint, Raj Nayak noted that paid news could be kept under check if it was legitimised. That way, it would merely be an advertisement for those who endorsed it, and at least the money couldn’t be laundered, he added. Uday Shankar opposed the suggestion by saying that it was against the ethics. “Young children will believe in the news that gets aired or published and they might take political lumpens for virtuous leaders,” he maintained.
Aroon Purie pointed out, “There is a legitimate way of making money. Paid news has violated all ethics of our profession. Abroad, business is run without using such means. Media is very cheap in our country, where you get a newspaper for Rs 2. This makes you dependent on advertisers. There is distortion in the way business is run in India.”