Paid news, decline role of editors a major threat to media: Ansari

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ANSARIAligarh, June 15;Expressing concern over media freedom, roles of the editors and their editorial freedom was posing a “major threat” to the media.Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari on Saturday said that paid news and declining

“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 are posing a major threat to the Indian media,” Mr. Ansari said.

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

Mr. 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.

Mr. Ansari said that a recent paper issued by 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 political arena as well as in 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.

Mr. 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.

Earlier, welcoming Mr. Ansari, Prajnananda Chaudhuri, President, NUJ said that the delay in the implementation of the wage board awards tantamount to an infringement of the freedom of journalists.

He pointed out that the prevalent system of hiring journalists on the basis of contracts was in fact a violation of the law of the land and was posing a serious threat to freedom of the media in the country.

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