Media is actually the watchdog that plays a very significant role in each and every democracy, and when it comes to the world’s largest democracy then it becomes even more important one. If we look back into the past of India then we find that media has always played a very influential, as well as a very trustworthy part in the very climate of the country, no matter whether it be as social, economic or political. Famous writer, Oscar Wilde also wrote in his works, Journalism is the fourth estate, and also that we all are dominated by journalism. This media has always worked as the one which gives the voice to those who are actually voiceless, rather than just being a mouthpiece of certain establishments for propagating or for placing various narratives of those establishments in front of the public. But over the period of time, especially in the recent years, we can actually witness a drastic change, which is all taking place due to the this growing competitiveness for Television Rating Point ( TRP ) as well as because of the paid news environment, the trust over the media has now started facing a major setback.
Eventually, all of this is actually leading to the very victimization of the Indian Democracy, as it is becoming the actual sufferer. Now that essence, profession as well as the ethics of journalism are all being destroyed by the very outreach of the crony capitalism. The practices like that of taking money, or also taking favors from government, big corporate houses, various political parties or also from any big organization, and thus displaying all those news that are favorable for them, is actually becoming so very common these days in this profession of journalism. Thus as the consequence, all the truth remains unknown to the people, further due to which both the people as well as the democracy both of them suffer. Something which is also very prevalent nowadays is that the media houses are receiving share transfer private treaties, where the transfer is made between the media and the non-media companies as a replacement for advertisement spaces as well as for special and favorable coverage which is then disguised as news. And to this, we refer as a ‘paid news syndrome’.
As being the largest democracy itself, India also makes the biggest market for the fourth pillar of democracy, having more than 82,237 registered newspapers, which are circulated all around the country, in all the regions. Also there are approximately 700 television news channels, which are broadcasting news all over India, rather the number of these channels is also increasing continuously. Apart from them we also various social media platforms some prominent ones being Facebook, Twitter, YouTube as well as WhatsApp, which is also becoming the hub for the fake news to these days. All this is just being possible because of the leniency as well as lack of restrictions and regulations for the cyber laws. No matter though we have such a large user base, but the very focus of our media remains only a few like Entertainment, Politics, or the corporate advertisements, instead of serving the truth to the public.
World Press Freedom Index is the report which is published each year by Reporters without borders since 2002. In 2019, India’s rank has slipped down to 140th from the previous 138th in 2018. In this report we can also see various other reasons that are actually affecting the very credibility of the media, like violence against journalists even by police, attacks by Maoist fighters, other criminal groups, and the corrupt politicians. This report also states that the media coverage in the sensitive areas or regions like in Kashmir remains to be very difficult. Even the foreign reporters are being prohibited from entering into the regions of Kashmir, also the internet services are also shut down there.
Nowadays media is further losing its credibility, by its biases. Biased news channels and biased journalists just display as well as a highlight only all those policies and all those steps taken by the government or by any other apolitical party which are always right. Also, they do not criticize the government for their wrong work and fail to realize that this will harm the democracy or country because criticism is the very backbone of democracy, also that the criticism keeps the government on right track. Media as the fourth pillar of democracy; media must take the charge and must keep democracy alive.
OCCURRENCES OF PAID NEWS IN INDIA
Andhra Pradesh is actually every time on the very top whenever it comes to paid news incidences. The size of the market for paid news is really very big; which lies somewhere between Rs 300 cr to Rs 1,000 cr. In Andhra Pradesh, Politicians who participated in the elections for the Lok Sabha in 2009, paid huge sums of money for favorable news coverage about themselves. It is really unfortunate that journalists forget their dignity for petty gains.
The Election Commission of India disqualified UP MLA Umlesh Yadav for filling an incorrect statement of election expenditure and also for paying two local Hindi newspapers for sponsoring ‘paid news’ before polling. She was the first political victim of the paid news event.
The controversial telephonic tapes between corporate lobbyist Nira Radia with journalist Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi resulted in a controversy for running scripted interviews with politicians and lobbying for A Raja the then Telecom Minister for his role in 2G Scam.
The former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan was involved in the paid news controversy. While contesting for Bhokar Assembly constituency in Nanded district, he had paid money to various Hindi and Marathi newspapers to get publicity and news praising him. He spent a huge amount of money on advertisements, which was not accounted properly in his election expenditure account.
One of the biggest expose of this so-called holy fourth pillar of democracy was the sting operation conducted by the cobra post in video operation 136 which took place in 2 parts. In these sting, the cobra post showed that how the number of media houses, whether televised, newspaper or on social media; are willing to promote and show the reports which could easily lead to communal polarization and result in gaining electoral gains for some. With the undercover reporter, cobra pose did a sting operation on media houses like India TV, Dainik Jagran, Sab TV, Daily News Analysis, Amar Ujala, UNI, Samachar Plus, Punjab Kesari, Swatantra Bharat, Scoop-Whoop, Rediff, Sadhna Prime News, and many others; these media houses have huge audience, circulation, and subscribers and are easily able to influence the opinion of the viewers, but these media houses are misusing their ability to change the viewer’s opinion in order to campaign and set the agenda of the political and communal groups, to help in increasing their electoral votes, in consideration of money. This exposes of the cobra post has shown the true greedy and irresponsible face of media whether mainstream, regional or national, big ones or small ones, old ones or newer ones. All of these media houses agreed to set the campaign trail in return for unaccounted cash.
BODY OF LAWS FOR REGULATING MEDIA
You believe it or not by media is so very powerful, it is so very influential that it can even play a decisive role in making and the unmaking of the government. Therefore, it clearly shows how important a role does the media play in our modern society too. Thus, to control this very influential ability of media there are a number of legislations as well as a number of laws for the regulation of media. In India, media enjoys more freedom if we see it in respect of the other forms of government. For instance, in the authoritarian regime media has no freedom at all. In the case of India, media enjoys its freedom under Article 19(1) of the Constitution, but with certain reasonable restrictions.
Due to the very impact that media could always have on the society, no matter it is positive or negative, there are various laws that had been enacted for regulating media, not only post-independence, that is after 1947, but they were enforced even by the Britishers during their rule. So that it can curb any harm that could be otherwise be caused to the very integrity of the nation.
Some of the legislations are :
- Press Regulation Act 1799
- Gagging Act 1857
- Vernacular Press Act 1878
- Indian Press Act 1910
- Contempt of Court ActPress Council Of India Act 1965
- Cable Television Act 1995
The ethical standards of the media and journalism are just being deteriorated by the greater emphasis which is now being laid on the paid news, an emphasis that is now more on the monetary values leaving those ethical and moral ones behind. But all these paid and biased news is just losing all that respect which media had among enjoyed the people for so long. Now people are not relying on any one news channel or any one newspaper as they no longer have trusted over media, so they just keep switching over different channels.