GoM on paid news to meet soon: Soni

NEW DELHI: A Group of Ministers (GoM) will shortly meet to examine the report of the Press Council of India on paid news, according to Information and Broadcasting minister Ambika Soni.

Soni informed the Rajya Sabha today that the GoM was constituted in January last year but could not meet before September due to various reasons including the fact that Panel chairperson and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was tied up in other matters.

The Press Council had submitted a report on paid news to the government for necessary action after a sub-committee studied the issue. Although the Government had initially released only a short summary of the report, it had later placed the report on the Council’s website following an RTI application.

The Minister said the GoM was set up in view of the “wider ramifications” of the recommendations, to prepare a comprehensive policy and institutional mechanism to address the issue.

The PCI has recommended amendment to the Representation of the People’s Act 1951 to make incidence of paid news a punishable electoral malpractice and suggested that the PCI must be fully empowered to adjudicate the complaints of “paid news” to give final judgment in the matter among others.

The report has also suggested measures to curb the menace of paid news like setting up of a special cell in the Election Commission for action on such complaints and self-regulation by media and awareness generation.

PCI has cautioned the media to refrain from publishing news masquerading as advertisement and vice-versa.

The Election Commission has also taken cognizance of this malaise and initiated steps to check incidence of election time paid news, which includes transparency in the money spent by candidates on advertising, a ban on exit and opinion polls until the last round is over, and similar other measures.

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