In a bid to streamline operations of the media industry and address some of the pressing issues, the Government has issued a Consultation Paper to discuss media laws with the various stakeholders.
The Consultation Paper raises some select concerns and poses a set of questions that will help foster a larger public debate amongst stakeholders and the citizenry to shape the approach that should be adopted in tackling these issues.
Some of the issues highlighted by the Consultation Paper include paid news, opinion polls, cross media ownership, media and individual privacy, trial by media and rights of the accused, publications and contempt of Court, defamation, social media and Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and regulations surrounding Government-owned media, among others.
Speaking on the issue of paid news, KVL Narayan Rao, Vice Chairman, NDTV affirmed, “Paid news is not acceptable. It is okay if an article is shown clearly as an advertisement. However, the problem arises when a news item, which actually is not a news item and is paid for and isn’t editorially pure, is put on air or gets published, it then becomes paid news. The viewers must be informed that these are the circumstances under which this particular news comes in; this practice has been followed for years as the concept of an advertorial.”
“How can we describe paid news?” asked Rao, adding, “Everyone has their own level of spending and don’t create a situation where people adopt other means to meet their revenue needs.”
He further said that every single thing on private channels is sponsored, which is the primary and only source of revenue, however, that doesn’t mean that a news story is sponsored.
When asked what enforcement mechanisms should be put in place to monitor and restrict the proliferation of paid news, Rao replied, “Ultimately, there is a mechanism and somebody has to do something. Everyone says that paid news is morally wrong, but nobody is doing anything about it. So, make a statement, say paid news in any form is banned, make it part of everyone’s uplinking and downlinking licence.”
On the other hand, Shailesh Gupta, Director - Marketing, Jagran Prakashan said, “This has to be self enforced. It has to be the moral responsibility of the media industry to live by the ideals for which it exists. One cannot put down control mechanisms on this aspect. The press is not known as the Fourth Estate for nothing – it is an extremely important institution in a democracy.”