Expressing concern over growing practice of camouflaging paid news as a regular news report, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley on Monday said there was need for institutions to differentiate between commercial and free speech.
At a programme organised here by Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CII), he said advertisements were being passed off today in India as free speech. He said there is a debate over paid news and it is a reality though some people may not accept it.
“Paid news has two shapes. One is giving out news without telling the reader it is paid news. The second is where the advertisement rates are jacked up by media houses during election time with the hidden advantage where more rallies (of the political party putting up the advertisement) are covered (by the channel benefiting from it),” Mr. Jaitley said.
He said like the US, India too differentiated between commercial speech (reports) and free speech but in the 1990s the Supreme Court removed the distinction in a judgement.
“I think the Supreme Court legally erred here. It said in the judgement that commercial speech is also free speech,” Mr. Jaitley said.
On the on-going debate about whether media should be regulated, the BJP leader said it is difficult to do so. “I doubt if it is possible... Technology today has defied all regulations,” Mr. Jaitley said.
He pointed out that it is for the media, as well as the politicians, to maintain their credibility.
“Both the media and the politicians survive on their credibility. Once you lose your credibility you lose viewers and supporters,” he said.
People have a sense of what is right and wrong and it is due to this that false campaigns have not stuck, Mr. Jaitley said.
Similarly, media by and large has a sense of fairness.