The Press Council of India Chairman retired Justice G N Ray has blamed corporatisation and monopolisation of Indian Media for the new trend in paid news and called on civil society to press for legislation to curb it.

Inaugurating a national seminar on “Paid News- A Threat to Democracy”, organised by the Kerala Journalists Union here, Justice Ray, pointing out to the paradigm shift in the media, said there the national newspaper and electronic media are with corporate hands, with the focus on higher profits through the sale of news as a commodity.

Referring to a Supreme Court ruling on the need to rule out potential bias, Justice Ray said paid news was prevalent in other fields as well, but newspapers must disclose the details so that the reader can judge whether news is biased or not. “There should be an understanding on the core issues. But due to political compulsion, these are lost,” he observed.

Justice Ray also rejected the charge that the PCI had suppressed the report of its two-member subcommittee which probed the allegations about paid news in the 2009 general elections. Clarifying that the subcommittee report was not that of the PCI’s, the chairman said that it was the drafting committee’s majority decision not to include the entire report in the final recommendations in the absence of clinching evidence. He said drafting committee was composed of people representing various sections and the newspaper owners were not the majority in it.

Delivering his keynote address, K Kesava Rao, a member of the PCI and the Congress Working Committee, said the Supreme Court, parliament, jurists, writers and eminent persons in various walks of life had come out against the phenomenon of paid news. But we are yet to come to a consensus on how to handle it. He warned that the phenomenon would continue to trouble the fourth estate and legislation by parliament alone cannot curb this.

Suresh Akhouri, president of the IJU, presided over the meeting. Mr. C P John, Assistant Secretary of the Communist Marxist Party and a former Planning Board member, Cartoonist Madhu Omallur, and journalist K M Roy participated in the seminar. Mr. G Prabhakaran, member of the PCI, welcomed the gathering. Justice Ray also released a souvenir to mark the national seminar, by handing over a copy to the representative of Global Grid Power Pvt. Ltd, the sponsors of the National Seminar.

This report earlier mentioned the name of the organiser of the seminar as the Indian Journalists Union, to which the Kerala Journalists Union is affiliated. The inaccuracy is regretted.

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