As many as 694 cases of paid news – or news for which the media organisations took money to publish or broadcast – were detected by the Election Commission in this election, official said.
By the time the 10 phases of the polls ended to form the 16th parliament on May 12, thousands of cases of paid news were reported, according to EC officials. In 3,053 cases, notice was issued by the EC suspecting a foul play, an official said.
"We served 3,053 notices, 694 of which were found to be genuine cases of paid news by our Media Certification and Monitoring Committee," EC Director General Akshay Rout told IANS. "We define paid news as those items which are published as news but are advertisement in nature," he added.
"There is no accountability in the media. While some candidates willingly pay for positive coverage, in most other cases candidates have to pay to prevent negative coverage. The media is getting increasingly criminalised, and acting as extortionist," noted columnist and commentator Swapan Das Gupta told IANS. He added that media is acting as a reckless body, violating every known tenet of ethics.
But the Press Council of India said it had not received any intimation from the election authority in this regard. "We have not received any formal report or communication from the ECI over cases of paid news. Let it come, then we will be able to review it and act over it," Punam Sibbal, deputy secretary of the Press Council of India, told IANS.
The Election Commission, on the other hand, said it was not obliged to act against the TV news channels or print media indulging in such practices. "The media houses or publications are beyond the EC's purview. We simply forward the cases of paid news to the PCI and the News Broadcasting Standards Association," Dhirendra Ojha, Director in the EC, told IANS.