‘Paid news’ corruption undermines Indian media

NEW DELHI, May 5, 2010 (AFP) – The Indian media, a pillar of the country’s vibrant democracy, is riddled with corruption that sees journalists report stories for cash in a phenomenon known as “paid news,” a probe has revealed. The findings of an investigation for the Press Council of India, seen by AFP but yet to be released publicly, throw a damning light on an industry that is meant to serve as a bulwark against corruption in other areas of public life.

Regional newspapers in vernacular languages are the biggest culprits but their national English language counterparts do not escape criticism and the venerable Times of India group is also in the firing line.

“This malpractice has become widespread and now cuts across newspapers and television channels, small and large in different languages and located in different parts of the country,” the report concludes.

The detailed 70-page study, prepared by two senior investigative journalists for the Council, lists testimony from leading journalists and politicians, as well as examples of suspect reports.

In its worst form, “paid news” sees newspapers present a rate card to political candidates who must pay a set amount for coverage for themselves or critica