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Prologue

Topic in news: 2014, October because Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) said we need to
amend RPA, make paid news an election offense with minimum 2 years jail time and
candidates disqualification.
Relevance in UPSC civil service Exam?
o CSAT: Expenditure limits related MCQs
o GS2: Salient features of the Representation of Peoples Act.
o GS4: Case studies involving ethics in journalism.
o Essay: Fodder for Media -pillar of democracy and topics of similar theme.

What is paid news?

It is a news article, editorial or headline banner.


Appearing in print/electronic media.
For which the editor, journalist OR media-house has accepted cash or kind.
Some examples of Paid news:
Newspaper publishing a banner headline on FrontPage stating that a Mr. X is ready to
create history in the __ election. But reporter has not presented any news item related to
this headline.
News item stating that one candidate is getting the support of each and every section of
society and that he would win elections from the constituency.

Why is Paid news bad?


1. Election Commission (EC) has setup limits on election Expenditure. But if rich candidates
are secretly paying media houses for favorable reporting, then poor candidates dont get a
level playing field in election campaigning.
2. Reduces voter turnout. Since Paid news creates an atmosphere that only Mr.X will win, then
some of supporters of Mr.Y, wont goto polling-booth, thinking their time and vote will be
wasted anyways.
3. Thus, Paid news prevents voters from selecting right candidate.

What has Election commission done to stop paid news?

SUGGEST THE STEPS TO CURB PAID NEWS DURING ELECTIONS

1. Under Representation of Peoples Act (RPA) 48 hours before the polling, media cannot
display any news that can influence the voters. (else jail 2 years)
2. Media cannot run exit polls until the election polling phases are complete. if in doubt, they
should seek permission of District election officer.
3. EC has ordered the District Collectors to meet with Political Parties and media houses, to
inform them about consequences of surrogate advertising and Paid News.
4. EC has setup MCMC Committee at every district and state level. MCMC=Media
Certification & Monitoring Committee.
5. This Committee is made up of Returning officer, representatives from I&B ministries.
6. They scrutinize all media coverage within their jurisdiction.
7. If they suspect a paid news or surrogate news, they seek explanation from respective
candidate.
8. If reply unsatisfactory, then they include money spend on the paid news, in candidates
election Expenditure.
9. EC has also written to Press council of India to set clear guidelines and punishment.

What has press council done?


Theyve issued following guidelines
1. Advertisement and news items should be set in different fonts.
2. News should carry credit line / source. Ads should carry disclaimers.
3. newspapers should not exaggerated reports about any candidate/party or incident during the
elections
4. Newspaper should not leave out any important point raised by a candidate.
5. Should not promote feelings of hatred between people about religion, race, caste, community
or language.

6. Must not publish unverified allegations against any candidate/party.


7. Must not accept any inducement/money/gift/hospitality/facilities from any candidate or
party.
8. Press shall not accept/publish any advertisement at the cost of public exchequer regarding
achievements of a party/government in power.
News Broadcasters Association
They also issued similar guidelines like PCI. Additionally following points given:
1. News broadcasters should maintain a clear distinction between editorial and expert opinion
carried on their news channels.
2. must not broadcast any hate speech
3. All paid content should be clearly marked as Paid Advertisement or Paid Content
4. Exit polls: should explain the methodology used, the sample size, the margin of error, the
fieldwork dates, and data used. Broadcasters should also disclose how vote shares are
converted to seat shares.

Suggest further reforms


CEC has proposed following:
1. Right now, Paid news is not an electoral offense. In worst case scenario, candidate will be
considered guilty for exceeding election Expenditure limits. In that case he just has to pay
fine. No disqualification, No deterrence.
2. Therefore, we need to amend Representation of Peoples act 1951, to make paid news an
electoral offense, with minimum 2 years jailtime and disqualification of candidate.
3. Government ads before polls, should be considered paid news. (recall the Madhav menon
said Government should not display ads before election except job-tender and public safety.)
4. Enact a law for opinion polls conducted by TV channels.
5. Additionally, we need to make clear guidelines on election Expenditure because:
a. Candidates poll Expenditure is counted from the day he files nomination. Therefore,
politicians spend crores on media-campaign before filing nomination. (some of them
even delay nomination till last date).
b. Poll Expenditure limits is for candidates and none for political parties. This rule is also
misused.

Challenges ahead
1. It is very difficult to prove paid news because money transfer done via Hawala and
sometimes in kind e.g. land-allotment after election, free wine-n-dine, luxury phones,
tours.

2. Contractual employment in media houses- journalist dont truly have independence.


Editors and Media owners enjoy too much discretionary powers.
3. Companies with political affiliations. They enter in private treaties with media house.
Product advertisement contracts given, in exchange of biased reporting during elections.
4. Companies with political affiliations themselves, own media-houses and news channels.
Therefore, nuisance of paid new can be fixed only by self-regulation of political parties and
media houses. RPA-amendment alone, will be insufficient.

Appendix
Election Expenditure limits

State

Lok Sabha

Large states: MP, UP, WB etc.

70 lakh

North East & hill states

53 lakh (incl.Goa & other small states)

Above limits are decided under representation of peoples act 1951=> conduct of election rules,
1961.

Deposit amount for Lok Sabha elections

Category

Lok Sabha (Rs.)

Vi

Gen/OBC

25,000

10,

SC/ST=50% less than above.

12,500

5,0

above limits are decided by Representation of Peoples Act 1951=> section 34/1/b.

If the candidate fails to get a minimum of one-sixth of the total valid votes polled=> deposit
taken away, sent to treasury.

Mock Question (GS2): Paid news is a tantamount to


committing a fraud on the voters. Discuss the steps taken by
Election commission of India to curb this malpractice and
suggest reforms in Representation of Peoples act, if any. 200
words.