The Election Commission has put in place Media Certification and Monitoring Committee in every district for the first time in the State to keep a strict vigil on paid news menace during Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

“Paid news is nothing but political advertisement in the garb of news and it circumvents election expenditure laws. It adversely influences a citizen’s right to correct information,” said Akshay Rout, Director General, Election Commission of India, here on Wednesday.

Speaking at a media workshop on ‘Paid News’, Mr. Rout said that in the enforcement of election regulations, media served as the eyes and ears of the Election Commission. The media was expected to comply with the guidelines issued against promoting paid news by the Press Council of India and News Broadcasters’ Association.

Replying to a question, he said the Commission had taken note that certain media houses were owned by political parties. However, they should adhere to the guidelines during the election period. If a particular channel focuses only on a candidate ignoring others, it would not give level playing field to others. In such a case, notional expenditure would be calculated and added to the election expenditure account of such a candidate or party. While there was no ceiling of expenditure for political parties, notices would be issued to the candidates.

Asked if any parameters were identified to recognise slanted political discussions in electronic media, Mr. Rout said that members in the Media Certification and Monitoring Committees would easily recognise a slanted discussion. However, the EC gave an illustrative list to the members.

Mr. Rout said that 48 hours before the polling date, it should not be difficult to observe discretion and refrain from any kind of promotional political stories to boost prospects of a political party or a candidate.

Chief Electoral Officer Bhanwal Lal presided.