Paid news: Election Commission for banning govt ads in media 6 months before polls

NEW DELHI: Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi said the Commission was in favour of banning all government advertisements in the media at least six months before any general elections to check the scourge of paid news.

The Commission has also recommended that opinion polls should be banned, since at present only exit polls have been banned.Furthermore, he said that the regulation for stopping campaigning 48 hours before the polls should also apply to the advertisements that still appear in the print media even on the day of the polls.

He said it was much more than a cliché that media is one of the important pillars of democracy. Media is not only a watchdog of the welfare of the citizens but it also plays a vital role to educate them, make them more aware about what is happening around the country and the world, and also to motivate them to become informed and better citizens.

Quraishi, who was giving the Convocation Address at the 43rd Convocation of the Indian Institute of Mass Communications here, said the stories about paid news had proved embarrassing as the role of the media during polls should be honest and transparent.

He said the Commission continued to receive complaints from politicians who said mediapersons were wanting money for covering campaigns, and threatened to write negative news if no money was paid.

Noting that 95 per cent of the media was still against such malpractices, he said the media was the eyes and ears of a democracy. In fact, television reports had often helped the Election Commission in checking malpractices.

Efforts had to be made to ensure that the Fourth Estate did not become the Fifth Column of democracy, he added.

He said the media can help educate the people and, therefore, the Commission had created a separate division for this purpose. Media had, in fact, brought about an attitudinal change and people were now informing the Commission about the use of money power.

Information and Broadcasting Ministry Secretary Raghu Menon, who is Chairman of the IIMC, said the Government was working on a bill to upgrade IIMC to ensure it is recognised as an institution of national importance and starts awarding Degrees instead of diplomas.

He said that apart from Dhenkanal in Orissa, temporary campuses of IIMC had already commenced in Aizawl and Amravati, and two other centres would be shortly started in Kottayam and Jammu.

The Indian media and entertainment industry will grow at a cumulative rate of 12.4 per cent reaching to Rs 1040 billion in 2014. He said, in order to achieve and sustain this growth rate, the industry requires a large number of trained media professionals.

Menon said, IIMC can play a greater role in providing quality trained professionals to the industry in adequate numbers.

He added that the dissemination of news should not merely be a corporate function but also serve a larger social good.

IIMC Director General Sunit Tandon said a total of 324 students had been given diplomas for 2010 and 75 per cent of them had already been absorbed in various organisations. The IIMC today boasted of having former students in 113 countries.

A total of 318 students were conferred PG Diplomas at the Convocation. 23 students of PG Diploma courses 2010-11 in Hindi, English, Oriya, Radio & TV Journalism and Advertisement & Public Relations were also given awards on the occasion.

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