May 14, 2009

"Want Press Coverage? Give Me Some Money"

As we wait eagerly for the results of the 2009 election marathon, it is time to reflect on the role the media played. More so, considering that for the next few days you would be glued to your TV set and would be desperately scanning through the daily newspapers to work out the political  arithmatic. Wait, pause and think. How reliable is the media's take on the political scenario? Has the media also gone the political way, I mean as far as corruption is concerned? Are you getting tainted and biased analysis?

Well, as you know the media of today deals in big money. You already know why the media prefers to ignore the real issues confronting the society. You must be thinking why doesn't the media ever talk of hunger, starvation and malnutrition, for instance, that is so rampant in our society. You are told that celebrities and the phoney discussions is all that the people want to view or read. Some TV channels have special programmes on how the CEOs spend their day, many bring you programme on cars and automobiles, and of course you have programme on cooking and dining, life and lifestyles, and still worse the friday launch of new films becomes breaking news on some channels.

Well, it is all because of big money. And how much of big money we are talking about. A recent forecast by a leading media service firm, ZenithOptimedia, provides you with the advertisement spending over the next three years. Hold your breath. It says that 2009 will see a slight increase of 6 per cent in the ad revenue of the Indian media -- increasing from Rs 22,757 crore in 2008 to Rs 25,004 crore in 2009.

Share of Ad revenue by TV channels will increase by 8.6 per cent over 2008, and in 2009 TV channels will rake in Rs 9,301 crore. Obviously, the TV channels will talk of what brings them more ad revenue. And what brings in more ad revenue are the commercial interests. Rest everything is a downmarket subject for them.

The race for making more money now goes beyond ad revenues. Newspapers and TV channels are now selling space. You don't know and it is very difficult to find out what is news and what is an advertisement. But still worse, and shocking indeed, are the reports that say that even election coverage was sold. Some newspapers had put up rate cards for the prospective candidates to be seen in the newspapers

I am pasting below a newsreport from the pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Want Press Coverage? Give Me Some Money

The Wall Street Journal

Ajay Goyal is a serious, independent candidate contesting for a Lok Sabha seat in Chandigarh.

Never heard of him? Neither, probably, have a lot of people in Chandigarh because when it came to getting press coverage for his campaign he was faced with a simple message: If you want press, you have to pay.

So far, he says, he's been approached by about 10 people – some brokers and public relations managers acting on behalf of newspaper owners, some reporters and editors – with the message that he'll only get written about in the news pages for a fee. We're not talking advertising; we're talking news.

One broker offered three weeks of coverage in four newspapers for 10 lakh rupees ($20,000). A reporter and a photographer from a Chandigarh newspaper told him that for 1.5 lakh rupees ($3,000) for them and a further 3 lakh rupees ($6,000) for other reporters, they could guarantee coverage in up to five newspapers for two weeks.

"We would do good coverage for you," he says they told him. All of those who approached him either were from national Hindi language papers or regional papers, Mr. Goyal says.

“You want a front page photo for free? This is something people pay for.”

In one case, he went along to see what would happen: a press release he submitted full of falsehoods – claiming he had campaigned in places he had never been, for instance – ran verbatim. One thing he has never seen on his real campaign: a reporter there to cover the story.

"It's disappointing," Mr. Goyal says. "What good is literacy and education if people have no access to real news, investigation, skepticism or a questioning reporter."

At the nexus of corruption in India, the nation's newspapers usually play either vigilante cop exposing wrongdoing in the public interest (on a good day, at a few publications) or spineless patsy killing stories on the orders of powerful advertisers. Many papers also engage in practices that cross the ethical line between advertising and editorial in a way that is opaque, if not downright obscure, to readers.

To read the full story, click


Pearl said...

Good! very Good Devinder!! Better late than never.Doordarshan and Mandi house days,then the Zee jamboorie...well it never was about serials,cultural sops,it always has been 'who owns more ambience space, the airwaves, kaun se INSAT SE KITNA TIME KHAREEDNA AUR BAAD MEIN KIS KIS EKTA KAPOOR KO KIS MOL PAR BECHNA...if doordarshan guys initiated it Subhash Chandra perfected the art of selling telecast time nd spaces.
And why MIND it,why feel BAD at such an erosion of values.The Editor, in print media is second,third fiddle to this suave Marketing guy who would rather put THE HUNK mobike or this SIZZLING BABE or NIMBOOZ on the front page,TORREX on the mast by selling his ass.The bania malik is happy while the Real Guy, the Editor sulks driving his team of reporters,correspondents all over his 'territory'.
Have a look at most of the engineering ,IT, Nursing colleges that have mushroomed.Most of the reporters KNOW that they are violating norms,horribly lack in infrastructure....still they go on producing doctors,nurses,engineers IT graduates.
There is this ban, emanating out of some sort of 'Self denial', not to go after 'human' stories wherein so many people are doing amazing work in their anonymous archipelagoes.
Let us remember Sahir Ludhiyanvi once again :
uss sham mujhe maloom hua'
kheto'n ki tarah iss duniya mein
paison ke kehva khano'n mein
behno'n ki jwani bikti hai
kissi ke sunehre khwabo'n ki
anmol nishani bikti hai.......
Mind you he was writing this more than 50 years ago.And things have changed....for the worst.You write and I read and I try to'nt it satisfyingly meaningful ?

Anonymous said...

Respected Sharma Ji it is true that media prefers to ignore the real issuses confronting the society. During freedom struggle, media played a significant role. In those days, country was dependent and a number of restrictions were imposed on media. Now, the country is independent and media is free. Unfortunately media has became a " Toy of Market". It is engaged in Bhoot-Pret, Nag-Nagin, Cricket, Politics etc. while ignoring important issues like farmers' sucides, malnutrition, dowry, child labour, social reforms etc.
Ramesh Dubey