Anil Thakraney: News for sale

05 Mar,2012

By Anil Thakraney


Very recently, a publisher friend called to seek advice. And his question threw me off-balance. Because not only was the query alarming, I frankly had no ready answers. So I copped out, and left it all to his judgment. The question: “A few assembly election candidates have approached us, asking for favourable coverage. They are offering large sums of money in return. What should I do?”


Since I knew that this particular friend was bleeding and needed some funding desperately, I simply replied with: “Man, it’s really up to you. If you are here to uphold the high standards of journalism, ask them to go fly a kite. But if you rationalize the situation in your mind, and conclude that if you refuse the offer and your rivals would lap it up, then you will be the only loser. In which case, go for it!”


Quite honestly, I have no idea what the publisher eventually did. But speaking from a larger perspective, it’s becoming increasingly clear that paid news is here, and it’s here to stay. There was a time when elections would excite only the political class, as that would mean big moolah gains for the winners. These days, along with them, a section of the media feels ecstatic. For the same reasons.


Corruption in the media isn’t really new. In the past, some journalists would accept alarm clocks and booze bottles from financial companies, and then write sweet words about their public issues. Now, of course, you can get your private party pics flashed in the Page 3 pages if you are ready to pick up the tab. We’ve learnt to live with these malpractices. But newspapers, magazines and TV channels accepting money to write good things about political candidates changes the goal posts. It’s clearly harmful to the nation’s future.


So is there a way out of this mess? I am afraid not. During the 2009 general elections, a few cheating media brands got exposed. Maybe we’ll hear of more culprits after the recent assembly elections in some parts ofIndia. But soon everything will be forgotten. And it will be business as usual.


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Yes, it pays to be in the media biz in modern times. If you won’t get support from advertisers, you can always tap into alternative revenue sources.


Jai Hind!


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PS: The context of the Fiat 500 Abarth ad is different, but this commercial is the kind of stuff Tata Nano ought to have done. A car you can take inside your home. Super positioning for a little gaadi. So much better than pitching it as the broke bugger’s vehicle.


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