Chennai/New Delhi,Feb 2() : The Election Commission(EC) has revealed that around Rs 500 crores has gone to Indian media houses from politicians for paid news during elections.
The Hindu in a report stated that many candidates had admitted to EC that they paid to media houses for covering news supporting them during elections. This was termed paid news since it was not published as advertisement or advertorial (promotional piece paid by the advertiser).
The EC says that 40% of the money spent by politicians for election expenses is to media houses through advertisements and 20% of it is for paid news. The paid news appears as the media’s observation of the candidate and coverage of his so-called achievements without mentioning that has been paid for. These misleading reports were used to influence the voters who trusted their favourite dailies, magazines or TV channels.
In 2009, it was the The Hindu that reported that Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda gave money to publish stories favourable to them. Press Council Of India (PCI) Chairman Katju ordered an inquiry. EC too delved into the issue. Both the persons named in the report and media houses said that they had not taken money for the reports and were based on facts.
This stumped the EC and PCI. Later on, the candidates told EC about paying for news items. This was after knowing that legally there was no provision to take action on the paid news. EC officials who look at the expenditure of candidates go through media reports and on questioning found that the story on media houses taking money for paid news was true.
PCI Katju did not have any answer to the EC’s claim of paid news existing and said it will do the needful. The paid news is a route to come within the election expenditure prescribed by EC.