In what could be described as the disturbing trend of “news against cash” in some sections of the media, the Election Commission has found that several candidates in the recent Assembly election opted for “paid news” for their campaign. In response to notice, they admitted the charge and included such expenditure in their returns.

Though Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, who revealed this at an international conference on “best electoral practices” here on Monday, did not name the State, EC sources said the reference was to Bihar.

After the EC issued 86 notices, several candidates admitted the charge and included the expenditure on “paid news” in returns. “But this again is just the beginning of what looks to be an intriguing and long struggle.”   

“Paid news” could best be addressed by “self-regulation” by the media and political parties but that was not happening. The EC was concerned at the undue influence “paid news” could exert on voters.

“Paid news” hoodwinked enforcement of the expenditure ceiling, particularly to provide a level playing field. “Exercise of undue influence is a misuse of media power and we need to intervene in the context of elections,” Mr. Quraishi said.