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In what could be a bombshell in Indian journalism Cobrapost, an investigative news portal on Friday May 25 posted ‘sting’ videos to show executives of media houses discussing lucrative offers to promote communal content and criticise Opposition leaders In more than 30 videos posted Cobrapost showed virtually all major media outlets falling over each other to accept lucrative offers to promote communal hatred, divisive agenda and character assassination of non-BJP political leaders.

The portal posted shocking videos showing interactions between an undercover reporter posing as a big budget advertiser with top executives of media outlets, including publishers of Times of India Bennett Coleman & Company, Hindustan Times, The New Indian Express, Zee Group, ABP News, TV 18, ABN Andhra Jyothi, Dinamalar, Jagran Group, Open magazine, Lokmat, Sun Group and Big FM.

Most marketing executives including the Managing Director of Times of India, Vineet Jain, are shown entertaining the offer. Some of them were also willing to accept payments in cash. Jain and ToI Executive President Sanjeev Shah are shown suggesting that the advertiser could employ the services of angadias, a Gujarati term for Hawala operators, to get the job done. “Aur bhi businessmen honge jo humein cheque denge, aap unhe cash de do” (There will be other businessmen who would be willing to issue cheques in lieu of cash that you pay them. You pay them.) ToI evidently asked for ₹1,000 crore for carrying the campaign.

Avneesh Bansal, Associate VP, HT Media, is heard advising “You should attack in two ways; one is tying up with a media house; so if you are giving a couple of crores of rupees to talk positive about you, my editorial then is under pressure to not to go too negative… second, is you find a PR agency of repute…and they can control reporters because they are the source of news.”In yet another meeting, another executive of HT Media holds out the commitment that farmers’ suicide and economic crisis in Congress-ruled Karnataka would be played up in the run up to the election.

Two newspapers, one in West Bengal and the other in Tripura, refused the lucrative advertisement deals. A senior General Manager with Bengali daily newspaper Bartaman, identified as Ashish Mukherjee, refused to entertain the proposal as soon as it was made. Divisive and defamatory content would not be carried, he bluntly told the undercover reporter. He refused to reconsider his stand even when the offer was raised from ₹1 crore to ₹10 crore.An official with ‘Dainik Sambad’ at Agartala (Tripura) also turned down the deal and refused to even part with his business card. “Our policy is very clear. We do not publish any religious advertisement,” he told the Pracharak.

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3 Comments

  1. Selling off to manufacture consent for an divisive ideology. Fourth pillar in communal service for a payment. Where are we heading?

  2. Be good in thought, word and deed.

  3. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Startling revelations … Also, there may be EVM bias in ensuing elections …! Sting operation may be helpful to find out the manipulations of machines