Media houses bat for self regulation as election year inches closer

The debate around the issue of paid media has turned shrill and media houses are batting for self-regulation to address it

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Nov 28, 2018 8:28 AM

With general elections just a few months away, the focus is back on media houses and the issue of paid media and biased news. The election commission has already taken a tough stand to monitor social media platforms against any misuse, the case of mainstream media, however, remains complex as ever.

While most of the mainstream players bat for self-regulation, the actual implementation is yet to become a reality. The reasons are myriad. According to former PMO advisor and Editor in Chief of GoNews, Pankaj Pachauri, “Self-censorship works well if there is a certain amount of discipline in the practice of media like we see in the Europe and USA. For this lack of discipline, it has not been working in India.”

He also explains the root cause of this non-committal media approach, “The trouble in India is that because media is not very profitable, media companies tend to get their revenues from corporates and governments. The moment government starts giving advertising for sponsorships to media companies; they become part of their narrative.  That is why during election time in India the expenses of the government on media always go up. The governments use their sponsorship and money as leverage over the media.”

For Anuradha Prasad, Chairperson and Managing Director of B.A.G Network, compromising amounts to playing with credibility and during election time the media needs to extremely careful of being fiddled with.

“Self-censorship is the essence of media. Check and cross check are the basics of journalism. It becomes more important when one has to face and survive social media. In an election year, the pitch is hyper with information flow. We must know that compromising is playing with credibility.”

Veteran journalist and Padam Shri Alok Mehta argues that we are unnecessarily painting a bad image of media when most of the media houses are already implementing the principle of self-regulation.

“There are a number of newspapers that are following the rules of self-regulation. The issue is when we see the leading media houses flouting the rules, it seems everyone else is doing do, which actually is not the case.”

“There needs to be a clear demarcation between marketing and editorial and the former cannot dictate the latter. The editors guild and the press council has a code of conduct in place and media should at least follow the guidelines of their own instead of government forcing them to adhere to a code of conduct,” he further added.

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