Union Information and Broadcasting Minister has said the Press Council of India(PCI) has recommended amendments to the Representation of the People Act,1951 in order to make the incidence of paid news a punishable electoral malpractice.
The PCI defines paid news as any news or analysis appearing in print or electronic media for consideration in cash or kind.Paid news is not an electoral offence yet but there is a case to make it one.
Further,the Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology in its 47th report had said that the government should formulate a comprehensive legal definition of paid news.
The reasons for the rise in paid news includes (a)corporatisation of media (b)desegregation of ownership and editorial roles and (c)decline in autonomy of editors/journalists due to emergence of contract system and poor wage levels of journalists.
The Committee had recommended establishment of either a single regulatory body for both print and electronic media or enhancing punitive powers of the PCI.Such regulator should have the power to take strong action against offenders and should not include media owners/interested parties as members.
The Committee has also recommended that the ECI should have the authority to take punitive action against electoral candidates in cases of paid news.
The Press Council of India was first established in the year 1966 by the Parliament on recommendation of first Press Commission.Presently, the function of the council is governed under the Press Council Act,1978.It is a statutory,quasi-judicial body which acts as a watchdog of the press.