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Unethical Media The Practice Of Paid News Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5448 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Ethics is adhering to the best practices available. This study describes what ethics is in general and then stresses on media ethics or the ethics related to journalism. Various theories on journalism and journalism ethics have been discussed along with the views of various authors to understand what is ethical in media journalism and what is not.Journalists are the members of an organization have certain duties and responsibilities toward the organization, nation and the people. The study then tries to understand what paid news is and analyze the practice of paid news which is unethical for the media citing some glaring examples. Different levels of corruption in the paid news have also been discussed. Thereafter, the study tries to identify the reasons behind paid news in relation with ownership pattern in media and the pressure to raise advertisement revenue. Lastly the study analysis the need to revive the code of ethics, the code of ethics pertaining to paid news, and the suggestions given by SEBI in regard to the various disclosures and rules mandatory to be followed by all media, television and print.

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Ethics is defined as the analysis, promotion and evaluation of what establishes virtuous character and correct conduct according to the best principles available. Ethics doesn’t ask simply the way to live in a good manner. It asks how one must live well in an ethical manner, i.e., in goodness as well as in the right relation amongst one other, a task which might necessitate us to sacrifice personal benefits, in carrying out duties or in enduring persecution.

According to Ward (2007) ethical reasoning relates to how various people understand, balance or change their principles according to latest facts, technology, and social conditions. The ethical boundaries change. According to Glover (1999) ethics now has includes issues like violence against women, animal cruelty, the environment and the homosexual rights. Ethical reflection is considered a normative reason for social practices. Ethics is also the never-completed task to invent, apply and criticize the principles which control human interaction, define social roles as well as justify the institutional structures.

Thus, ethics, particularly journalism ethics, according to Black, Steele, & Barney (1999) is basically a practical action which seeks reasons for the questions relating to how one should act. Will it be ethical for the journalists to disclose their confidential sources to the police? Will it be ethical to enter privacy of some admired politician for investigating an alleged misconduct? The ethics includes theoretical study relating to the modes and concepts of justification that provides ethical reasons to act. But the reason here is practical also: clarifying principles and improving deliberation in order to lead obtain well-considered ethical decisions. Dworkin (2000) states that a stress on practical aspects in the ethics assures that problems we followed in the cloud are, also intellectually, genuine and not spurious.

According to Dimock& Tucker (2004) applied ethics concerns with studying principle frameworks for areas of activity, like corporate governance, professional practice and scientific research. Journalism ethics is the type of applied media ethics investigating the micro issues of what an individual journalist must do in certain situations, and macro issues of what the news media must do, given their particular role in the society. According to Curd & May (1984) and Elliott (1986) the journalists as news organization’s members have certain rights, duties as well as norms since as humans, they also come under the universal ethical principles like telling the truth, minimizing harm, and being professionals they hold social power for framing a political agenda as well as influencing public opinions.

Consequently, a question on journalism would be an ethical one, in contrast to the question about prudence, law or custom if it can evaluate conduct as per the basic social responsibilities and public purposes of journalism. Story who can sensationalize a public figure’s personal life might be legal or legally safe for publishing but it might be unethical as it may be inaccurate or unfair. Though, there will be no obligatory incompatibility between the ethical values with other kinds of value. Any story could be legal, well-written, as well as career-enhancing, at the same time ethical too.

What one considers as a journalism ethics question depends, eventually, on one’s own conception of primary functions relating to journalism and principles which support those aims. Subsequently, there is space for disagreement on practice levels, to apply norms, and on the theory & principle level.

Liberal theory recognizes the idea behind press responsibility & social utility, the theory of social responsibility underlines these ignored responsibilities. In the USA, the Hutchins Commission in late 1940s gave the theory on Freedom of Press a clear and popular formulation.

In the report titled, A Free &Responsible Press, the commission laid stress on the foremost functions of press which was to make available a truthful, comprehensive, and an intelligent account of news and the events and a platform for exchange of comment & criticism. According to Commission on Freedom of the Press (1947) the press needs to give a representative image of the constituent groups in society, and support in the presenting and clarifying the society goals & values and make available full access of day’s intelligence. If the self-regulation on journalism failed, the social responsibility advocates warned that the government regulators may intervene. Christians &Nordenstreng (2004) say that today, the thoughts of the theory of social responsibility have been globally recognized over the past 50 years, like in public broadcasting in Europe and according to Tsukamoto (2006) even in Japan. Furthermore, the theory keeps providing a rudimentary vocabulary for fresh ethical approaches, like the feminist & communitarian theories, simultaneously providing standards that the press councils as well as public could evaluate the media’s performance.Ethics of care tries to confine the news media which is frequently insensitive to the story subjects & the sources. According to Black (2006) feminist scholars argue that by giving attention to beliefs of the ethics of care, might give rise to a fuller and richer system of media which would consider the concepts like compassion, need and subjectivity. According to Fullerton & Patterson (2006) ethicists have applied the ethics of care in cases of journalism, like formulaic coverage on the murders in the United States and Canada. The notion in journalism relating to professional responsibility could be re-interpreted relating to caring (Steiner and Okrusch, 2006).

Taking a serious perspective, the professional journalism model for ethics shares similar biases as well as limitations like the liberalism on which it was based. The theory of Liberal press is considered to be based on the Enlightenment kinds of thought which are male, individualistic, Eurocentric, and universal. The ethical method is not diplomatically innocent but could be considered a political action of power, like journalism could publicize Western propaganda. The Critical theories caution that the Western ideas could be used in justifying imperialistic and colonizing intents. Fourie (2007) says that it starts from a vision that institutionalized theories and knowledge on issues like race, class, sexuality, gender, and media are subject to colonialism forces.

What are a few specific implications to critical theory on journalism ethics? An implication could be that scholars must de-Westernize the journalism ethics. For instance, some writers like Fourie (2007) examined whether ubuntuism, an African tradition needs to be the central ethical value in African journalism, as communal values according to ubuntuism are more associated to African society rather than the Western stress upon individualistic and free press. De-Westernization would also refer to using the cross-cultural contrasts when discussing media ethics principles, and giving considerable weightage to the African, Eastern and Indian ethical systems.

Finally according to Coman, (2000); Howard (2003), the critical theories suggest that Western project on media development needs to be thought about again. Western nations splurge millions annually for sending their journalists in struggling countries for developing its news media, to move towards democracy. Most journalists try to explain the above Western professional model, to native journalists, without sufficient considering how appropriate such Western principles are for diverse cultures and dissimilar media systems. For achieving success in these efforts, without accusing Western colonization, the media developers require re-considering their guiding principles and aims as per above discussed media theory critiques.

To summarize, these critical standpoints call for enlarging the theoretical base of journalism ethics. The above entire thinking-feminist, communitarian, post-colonial and post-modern -changes the simple path of the journalism ethics besides requiring incorporation into ethics related textbooks. The main theoretical discussions extend beyond traditional debate amid theory on liberal & social responsibility. The argument now contains issues like relationship between ethics & power, representation of media and the social construction of identities, dominant cultures, differences in methods to know and value, and relationship between global and local.

These far-reaching criticisms uncover of the absence of theoretical depth associated with journalism ethics. Journalism ethics as an applied discipline generally fall back on the simplistic appeals of general concepts like truth-seeking, serving the public, freedom, and democracy.

Price, Rozumilowicz, &Verhulst (2002) raise a practical question regarding how these discussions on ethics are related to public watching of the news establishments, and the reforms of the regulatory structures on media systems. What novel public mechanisms could be adopted for improving accountability of news media, for making sure that the journalism’s eternal desire of self-regulating also includes public-regulation?

Lastly, journalism ethics according to Ward (2005) must become further cosmopolitan theoretically and practically. Traditionally, journalism ethics and journalism have been narrow-minded. Journalism ethics had been developed for limited reach journalism,and its public duties assembly stopped at borders. Callahan (2003) the sufficiency of the narrow-minded ethics had been diluted by news media globalization. Morris &Waisbord, (2001) stress that global impact gives rise to global responsibilities. The violence which followed the world over after publication of Mohammed’s cartoons in some Danish newspaper can be considered a global impact example. News media associate different religions, groups and traditions. According to Price & Thompson (2002); Seib (2002) an internationally responsible journalism is required for helping the citizens in understanding the intimidating global problems relating to poverty &environmental degradation. Defining the universal journalism ethics content would be a work-in-progress. Recently, ethicists have started searching for the central principles of worldwide media ethics. Such search according to Christians &Traber (1997) faces problems as to how to give justice to the particular as well as the universal. Rao (2007), for instance, strive for ways for integrating local or the indigenous epistemologies inside worldwide media ethics. But there include other questions, as well as other quandaries. In what way will a cosmopolitan ethics redefine the ideas on social responsibility and serving public? Will a broad-based ethics reject the patriotic sentiment as a legitimate influence on the journalists?

Notwithstanding these difficult questions or daunting problems, future of ethics journalism needs nothing lesser than constructing a new, more bold and greater inclusive framework of ethics for multi-media, worldwide journalism amidst a pluralistic world.


Indian Media is expanding rapidly on a day to day basis. Newspapers & Magazine circulations are surging. Television channels focusing on news have witnessed unparalleled growth. The community radio stations as well as the FM radio stations have been multiplying. Internet news gateways are recording high number of visitors unlike previously. Technological development right from printing up to internet or from a pinhole camera up to the digital equipment or from the gramophone up to the blue-ray discs and also from the telegraph up to the mobile phones changed each possible human communication dimensions and in that process affected changes in the values as well as ethics.

All the above has transformed Indian media into an extremely competitive industry which provides an abundance of choices for media buyers as well as marketers. Though, this type of media growth has not come without some pain. Some casualties have also been witnessed. The largest one is regarding Journalism values. The media ethics is among the novel branches of the applied ethics regarding the democratic society. In India corruption in mass media and in other places would be as ancient as media itself. But recently it has surpassed individuals & specific media establishments from implanting information & spinning views to make up for favors received to institutionalized as well as organized kinds of corruption in which newspapers and television channels receive monies for broadcasting or publishing information. They required to be camouflaged as news but in reality are designed for favoring particular individuals, political party representatives, corporate entities, or some rich candidates standing in the elections.

The accomplishment of good conduct is antique concerning for journalists as the ethical dilemmas had plagued this profession since the days of Franklin rightly pointed out that without great ethical ideals, newspaper publisher not only can be bared of its grand possibilities of public service, however might become a danger for the community (Vidura, 2005).

Maharastra’s assembly elections of 2009 in India, same story were published in 3 rival dailies matching word by word with only difference being the headline. If the Indian language newspapers ran majority of these ‘news’, it was chiefly as they were the most favored stage for reaching out to voters at the time of election.

P.Sainadh stressed that on the poling day The Times of India’s supplement, Vidarbha Plus, carried an add masked as news of RaosahebShekhawat, son of President PratibhaPatil, a Congress candidate, , from assembly constituency of Amravati. There were numerous complaints against the Hindi daily paper DainikJagran, which was the leading circulated daily in India as well as amongst the 5 most widely distributed dailies of the world. The PCI had received complaints about DainkBhaskar, which was the 2nd most circulated daily, Hindustan, Lokmat, Punjab Kesari, Marathi daily, EenaduSakshi and even against the prevalent circulated English newspaper of the country, The Times of India, amongst others.

ParanjoyGuhaThakurta, (2010), a PCI member said that a leader protects the reader however in this case the leaders have themselves taken to cheat the reader besides lowering the ethical standards. On this issue, Nayar (2011) an accomplished senior Indian journalist perceived that paid news charges had also been made during 2004 elections of the LokSabha. But at that time amount of payment had been small and limited number of TV channels and newspapers were involved. This time there seems it is free for all as all leading broadcasters have been named. A seminar was held in Delhi regarding the accusations that at the time of elections of the LokSabha both the electronic and print media apart from taking cash from candidates and political parties also squeezed as much money as possible. HRD Minister, KapilSibal, who had started the session, debated that they had the knowledge of how the news story was paid for and planted. Numerous journalists also self-confessed that high amount of money had been exchanged at the time of election campaign. There was no news of the seminar or the allegations put forward by Sibal in the TV channels or newspapers. Some approached PCI (Press Council of India) for setting up a commission for investigating the muck money used for campaigns. During July 2009, 2 members Press Council of India sub-committee was established for examining the paid news phenomenon which submitted in April 2010 its report after visiting people in various parts of country. The PCI’s report was suppressed due to vested interests. Election Commission had also been approached for its response.

Levels of corruption in paid news

First level: A candidate contesting elections does not disclose true campaign expenditure, which violates the election rules, 1961 conduct which was framed and was meant for implementation by election commission according to people Act, 1951.

Second level: TV channels and Newspapers concerned receive funds by means of cash and they don’t disclose these earnings in the official statements of accounts or the company’s balance sheets.Therefore, by not showing the money obtained from the candidates, the company concerned (electronic or print) or their representatives violate the Companies Act, 1956 provisions and also Income Tax Act of 1961 amongst other laws.

Third level: Finally the viewers or readers mislead into believing what is basically an add is, actually independently fashioned news content.

Reasons for paid news

Possession trend in media

Earlier to independence, every newspaper functioned composed with service slogan for particular targets, social alteration, nationwide progress, and achieving freedom from British dictatorship. Subsequently independence, business turn out to be the key motto. Presently family related problems control the media in India. It has initiated to break media possession. Cross ownership of media result in monopoly market. , chairperson of PrasaraBharati, MrinalPande mentioned that it is essential to ask question to the ownership trend in the Indian media. According to the article published in The Hindu On Dec 2010 stated that The limitations between the owner and the editorare decreasing and in few times possession is also in hands of politics.

Burden to increase revenue of advertisement

Governments are spending for newspapers and captivating advertising to enlighten the press. It would be unsafe nowadays if people became so dependent on advertisements which audience began to loss liberty that advertising had provided.

If the reports, the newshave collected must rank among the greatest extraordinary news rulings ever, Sainath (2009). If it was advertising Then it should be seen but If this wasn’t advertising, then this was funded news which is nowadays closely attached in the functioning of media. If this was money was given for news then politicians and media outlets are guiltier than financial fraud. These people will be answerable for this serious damage to the democratic courses.

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News manipulates the story for the personal and institutional profits are ethically and morallywrong. Few journalists take advantage of the profession for individual achievements. GauthamMachaiah (2006) observed that It has not been a secret that the news paper’s every section are being misused to persuade potential bosses and to safeguard lucrative offers by broadcasting favorable news . Such problems must be addressed by the corporate media. The media persons should be justified not through its significance to the people but through its suitability to the media, sponsors and their owners.


According to the Philosophy of Immanuel Kant any lie for whatever reason, though noble, is dishonesty and abolishes the dignity of person. A Journalists work is to report realities at the cost of inconvenient to some people. Mahatma Gandhi stressed on the necessity for truth in communication when the truth is bigger than the Sun, one day it will definitely come to light’. People should always so express and perform as to speak as clear as possible because what people expect to be true, or what human try to do and that can be conveyed in this meaning.

NiraRadia episode

Industrialists, politicians and Journalists are main contributor to the development of the country. The taped interaction between MukeshAmbani, Ratan Tata and NiraRadia with concern of questions related to ministerial portfolios the difference between genuine news collection, influence peddling and lobbying. Around 104 cellphone chats recorded on May and June 2009 at the start of Manmohan Singh’s govt. second innings. In an aggressive discussion on ‘Journalistic ethics and Radia tapes’ on third December at New Delhi, President of the Editors Guild, RajdeepSardesai got back his statement, asking instant intervention from the Guild in framing a rule of morals for journalists, which includes for editors. But Rajdeep confessed that media channels required to seeing inside the organization and truly audit the work of media which allows the reducing oflines apart from politics, lobbying and journalism. According to VinodMeheta, the journalists should use foundations, foundations cannot use reporters (Hindu 4th Dec, 2010). Nayar (2011) expressed that ‘the mass media in Gandhian periods did withstand the essence of sacrifice which had sanctified the movement of freedom. The value arrangement encouraged the media. Integrity was the strong point of the media. Most of the people faith on journalists more than politician, lawyers, , and policeand be certain of that journalist could eloquent its objections. Media is known as the Fourth pillar as this is among the resilient supports on which the democratic structure rests. But gone are the days now.

Need to revive Code of Ethics

To advice, counseland guide journalists, various domestic and global associations of media have formed rules of ethics to standardize the practice of ethical journalism. Ethics codes can support media staffs to take good decisions and establish journalism trustworthiness about the several ethical issues media persons may face while working. Press must have a solid policy on establishing ethical standards, examination ethical values, and improving ethical practices for the harmonious improvement of developing age of the society worldwide. It is required to form a policy on media in structuring of a lively civil society, to make a movement to fight the onward protest of business globalization and development of big mega media corporations(Press Council of India, 2010).


The occurrence of paid news has achieved a novel and even worst evil dimension by reaching to the arena of political news reporting on contenders fighting elections. Many complimentary news reports and published articles on councils of political parties comprising contenders who are fighting elections have seen in newspapers throughout the country, same happens in case of LokSabha, state legislative assembly and other elections. There are various information which have been broadcasted on TV channels without revealing the detail about financial transactions are settled between both the parties the concerned candidate of any political party and representatives of specific media companies (Press Council of India, 2010).

There is an serious requirement to defend the right of the people to precise information prior to the voting. A perception which was described in the Assembly is that the reason for the rise in ―paid news could be that the limitation on election campaign based on spending which have been enforced by the Election Commission of India, contestants have picked this option to promote themselves, in the course posing a risk to the execution of free and fair elections. This was recommended that the authority which are used in returning govt. officers deployed by the Election Commission prior to the elections occur are suitable for these officers to give notices to the media to clarify the foundations of specific news reports and determine whether monetary transactions had really happened between media companies and candidates (Press Council of India, 2010). The Press Council of India felt that undertaking the order given to the Board by Parliament, this was obligatory upon this constitutional authority to inspect the problem in every dimensions by thorough research and discussions. This exercise was proved to be essential to uphold the trust of the people in the media and also give suitable suggestions to examine such misconducts from repeated occurrence on an extensive range prior to the upcoming stages of elections in both the state levels and Union elections.

Some publications like Mint have recommended its own guidelines of ethics which are commendable of imitation as a ration of self-regulation. Nonetheless self-regulation is not sufficient for examining rampant corruption and misconductswhich have expected widespread proportions in numerous divisions of the print and electronic media. In the context of political paid news reports, provided the clandestine and illegalnature of these misconducts, this is difficult to seek out deciding evidence which indicates accountability for these illegal practices on specific organization and person (Press Council of India, 2010). Thus, a massive volume of situational evidence which points to the rising requirement of the media for issuing ―paid news report that is a kind of electoral misconduct. Similar articles with headlines and photographshave seen in competing publications showing acknowledgements of various authors simultaneously. Articles may have been published on the same page of specific newspapers praising competing contenders presenting that both political parties are expected to be victorious. There no indication that the article of these news has involved monetary transactions or funded by some persons or political parties.

Such paid news reports are formed by Press Council of India which checks the blurring restrictions between advertisements and news. To highlights the attempts taken by some people and companies who have carefully reported the editorial space selling for money particularly during the period of April-May 2009 common elections and elections to the state assemblies of Maharashtra and Haryana during the period of September-October 2009 (Press Council of India, 2010).

These report also mentioned the denials which have been published by media companies and personalities related to politics beside whom particular charges of corruption and misconduct have been filed and against whom a sufficient number of situational evidence has been documented, collated, acquiredand represented to the Press Council of India.

The Security and exchange board of India directed that private agreements may cause commercialization of news as it would be dependent on the advertising and subscriptioncontract between the company and the media group. Also, imbalanced and biasednews reporting can produce incorrect perceptions of the organizations that are the beneficiaries of these private agreements. Therefore, the Security and exchange board of India believe that these brand making tactics of media groups, without suitable and relevant disclosures, cannot be in the favor of financial markets and investorsbecause the same will hinder in taking a well-informed and fairdecision. The Security and exchange board of India recommended the following guidelines (Press Council of India, 2010):

1. Disclosure on stake percentage held by media companies in different organizations under these private agreements on the official website of media companies can be made compulsory.

2. Disclosures regarding such contracts like some nominee of the media companies from organization’s board of directors team, management control or other facts that can be needed to be revealed and this can also be a possible interest conflict for media companies, can also be made necessary.

3. Disclosures related to the stake owned by the media organization can be made necessary in the news article ,report, editorial in print or electronic media regarding the organization in which the media companies holds these stake.

From this perspective, the Council relates to the available plans for economic journalists which had been outlined in 1996, which consists of the following conducts (Press Council of India, 2010):

A journalist who reveals a scandal or highlight a report for advertising a good report should be appreciated and rewarded.

The reporter should not practice for his individual, relatives and friend’s profit or for the benefit. The information should be acquired by the reporter prior to publication.

Media Company’s owner, editor or any person concerned with a publication should not use his connection with the newspaper to advertise other interests of business.

Financial reporters should not receive gifts, trips, , preferential shares, loans, discountsor other deliberations that compromise journalist’s position.

When tours are offered for visiting formations of a organization and extended hospitality, the maker of the report who has taken benefits of these facilities must mention that without making a change in the report.

When there would be an impeachment of a specific advertising advertiser or agency by the Advertising Standards Council of India, that particular media company who has published that article must publish news regarding the impeachment prominently.

A report should mention prominently that the prepared report is based on data given by Its financial sponsorsor the company .

A media person who has a monetary interest in the organization should not report from that organization.

After considering the issue, the Press Council of India permitted the opinions given by the Security and exchange board of India and mentioned that the related rules should be implemented and it is compulsory not only for financial reporters but also for owners of media organizations. It will be lead to fairness and transparencyand will decrease the occurrence of biased reports about organizations being published this report is unfriendly investors’ point of view.

The Mint (owned by Hindustan Times Media) has formulated an understandable guideline for journalistic conduct and gives its entire staff with course of action for suitable professional behavior. The guidelines are presented on the website of newspaper. The newspaper demands that the rule is proposed not as a declaration of new principles or a systematization of new guidelines of conduct, nevertheless as a restatement of durable practices and values. In accordance with the rules of conduct, the media company does not pay news creators for conversations, nor does it pay journalist for taking their picture or recording a film. The rules of conduct also commands its employees to get ready and place stories, interactive features, and graphics founded exclusively on their editorial qualities with a purpose of delighting companies which promotes itself with the media firms in precisely the same way as those who do not advertise. These companies ask its staffs not to favor any organization, or a story subject, nor to victimize any for any reasons.

The media company also claims that editorial and editorsnecessities order the design of their goods and the management gives allowance for the demonstration of revenue mak


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