Specials

Govt is most guilty of the malaise of paid news: Akbar

MUMBAI: Senior editor M J Akbar today said the entire agitation against paid news was misplaced since the media was the greatest beneficiary of doles given out by the government.


Speaking at Ficci Frames 2010 here, he said "the biggest purchaser of news and credibility is the government.


Noting that the so-called control of content by advertisers was the least of concerns before the media, he said mediapersons were recipients of advantages like housing and government advertising in newspaper.


Furthermore, the biggest power in the media was the Board Room in the sense that content was often decided according to the business interests of the media group.


Speaking on ‘Content is king, but who dictates it – advertising, consumer taste or editorial policy’, he said the real problems for newspapers were created by the creators. This was because the biggest asset that present-day journalists and particularly managements in newspapers had was ego-mania and not news. There was very little truth in the maxim that the consumer was king and the news was in keeping with what he wanted to see or read.


He said the editors of newspapers in the fifties or sixties were more like editorial writers and did not interfere in the news – ‘in fact, they hardly ever came into the newsroom. But this changed in the seventies and particularly when the television news came in a large way.


But he said the editor as dictator could not survive for long, but nor could the consumer become dictator. And, therefore, the Board Room took over.


Referring to the advent of new technologies, he said the Internet could not be blamed for the downfall of television or newspaper. Every medium has its advantages or disadvantages. For example, he said a consumer could not carry a TV or personal computer around all the time the way a newspaper could be carried, and so the print media would remain supreme.


The Internet began dominating in the west because the newspapers were denied the democratic right to choose their news, unlike India where the newspaper has always had greater credibility with the reader.

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