The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Sunday suggested that the Election Commission of India should come up with steps to stop the practice of ``packages’ for media coverage of elections. This practice is now “widespread” in some regions of the country.
Reacting to the editorial in The Hindu, Prakash Karat, the CPI (M) general secretary, said here that while campaigning in Uttar Pradesh two years ago for Assembly elections, he had personally come across some media organisations adopting the practice, which was now widespread. Mr. Karat said during the course of the 2007 campaign, when party workers approached media organisations for coverage of CPI (M) candidates and leaders, several newspapers, suggested buying a “package.” Since the party did not subscribe to the practice, the CPI (M)’s poll-related activities, including public rallies, were blanked out of news coverage.
Mr. Karat said the ’coverage package’ for a price was meant to include dedicated news space of the election campaign, with pictures and other material of the party’s choice thrown in. “What I saw in 2007 in Uttar Pradesh has now spread to States like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh both in the Assembly polls and in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The Election Commission is seized of the matter. This issue figured during our meeting with the ECI during August this year,” Mr. Karat told The Hindu.
Describing the practice as “a travesty of democracy, a fraud on the whole concept of media coverage of elections, and an unethical practice,” he said in normal practice the views of every party contesting elections should be heard and reflected in news. The current practice where party candidates are expected buy ‘packages’ being marketed to ensure coverage also means that it has become an instrument for generation of revenue for media organisations during elections, he said.
Mr. Karat said the ECI had to think about what steps it should take to stop this practice. Perhaps State funding could be modified to include media coverage that is curently limited to recognised parties getting time on state-run Doordarshan and All India Radio for speeches by their leaders. Th ECI could come up with a formula to include both print and electronic media in the private sector.
“There should be a system by which campaign material, video cassettes, can be put out on private media with the state funding it,” Mr. Karat said, adding that a formula allocating time and space for political parties could be worked out.