MEMBERS FROM several Opposition parties spoke of an “Emergency-like situation” and voiced concern over “paid news” during a debate on electoral reforms in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Demanding a law to ban cross-holding by media companies, Congress, CPI(M) and JD(U) members said owners of newspapers should not be allowed to own any other business.
Raising the issue, Sharad Yadav of JD(U) said, “A law should be enacted to ensure that owners of newspapers cannot do any other business. Journalists cannot write anything…. There is an undeclared Emergency on the fourth pillar (at present).” CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said it’s time paid news is identified as precisely that. “That (kind of news) must be treated as an advertisement, and the money should be charged to the account of the political party or the candidate,” he said.
Yadav, Yechury, CPI leader D Raja and Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said the Upper House should hold a debate on media for a day. Sharma dwelt on how cross-holding is “subverting” the role of media.
Backing Yadav, Yechury said, “No major democracy in the world allows cross-holding of media. The same corporate (house) cannot hold (own) a newspaper and a TV channel and electronic sites.” Yadav and Yechury made a strong pitch for media reforms, saying democracy is in “danger” since media is now controlled by capitalists.
Observing that journalists are being hired on contract, Yechury said recommendations of the Majithia wage boards for the print media employees should be implemented at the earliest to protect mediapersons.
“We have seen the media in earlier days, and we are seeing the media now. We have capitalists owning media houses now, who follow a ‘hire and fire’ policy,” the CPI(M) MP said. “Not only this, the media does not have any connect with the people because of (its) owners.”
Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) alleged that the media had favoured the BJP in the recent Assembly elections. Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav also alleged that the media was “compromised” during the recent polls “in a big way”, and urged the EC to look into the issue.
Yechury said media allots disproportionate time allotted to some political parties and leaders during polls and pointed to the coverage of the Prime Minister’s rallies and ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme by all private TV and radio channels.