Soliciting advertisements in the garb of editorial content !

Mumbai: Documenting the modus operandi
of newspapers and television channels in soliciting advertisements in
the garb of editorial content and earning huge amount of money in lieu
was highlighted in a documentary screened here.

Organised by the
Moneylife Foundation, the screening of “Brokering News” Friday evening
was held to highlight the dark side of journalism replete with details
on how news is bought and sold in print and electronic media by
politicians, corporate houses, sportspersons and film personalities.

The 53-minute documentary is made by award winning documentary maker Umesh Aggarwal.

A
former journalist, Aggrawal traces his career to the 1985 television
show Newsline. He won a National Award for “The Whistle Blowers”, an
investigative film on pesticides in bottled water and soft drinks, in
2007.

“Brokering News” packs in a lot of information and analysis
in its narrative. Questions have been raised on the authenticity of
news items which were, at that point in time, paid for with huge
amounts.

The film that unfolds like a thriller portrays a corrupt
but powerful system where big money is at stake. It also includes an
interview of a former journalist from Kurukshetra in north India who was
allegedly asked by his publication to generate income through paid news
during elections in 2009.

In the interview he is seen revealing various documents as proof. The narrative also unfurls another instance.

“What
is one supposed to think when one article, extolling the virtues of a
politician, is carried by three newspapers under three bylines,” asks
Aggarwal.

“If the people who make news think of it as a commercial product, it is time to ask a few questions,” says Aggarwal.

“News
paid for by candidates during assembly and parliamentary elections
should be considered an electoral malpractice that will attract two-year
imprisonment,” Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi was quoted as
saying in the documentary.

Also present at the screening were
member of Press Council of India’s sub-committee set up to investigate
paid news P.G. Thakurta, senior sports journalist Ayaz Memon, veteran
entertainment journalist, editor and film reviewer Bhawana Somaaya and
veteran business journalist Sucheta Dalal who responded to audience
questions on the paid news phenomena.

The film also includes bits
from television shows, photographs of different newspapers and snatches
of interviews with eminent people in the media as well as editors to
create a strong visual story.

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