The Need to Keep Journalism Free from Paid Public Relations

The Media is an Extension of Big Business Now

In recent years, the concept of paid news and advertorials that are a combination of editorials and advertisements have become commonplace around the world. While the media always had a cozy relationship with the advertisers because both depend on each other for sustenance, the recent trends indicate that this relationship has now transformed itself into a full-blown public relations exercise by the media on behalf of the corporates.

One cannot deny the fact that the media is dependent on the corporates for advertisements since the media houses have to sustain themselves monetarily. However, the fact that the line between friendly pieces in newspapers and strategically placed interviews and programs on TV and the need to inform and educate the public rather than indulge in advertisement has been breached.

In other words, the media is no longer reporting the stories in an objective and unbiased manner. Rather, they have become the mouthpieces of corporates and anyone with enough money to dictate terms to them.

The point here is that the media must not forget its primary function of being a watchdog of democracy and propagating the public good. In the pursuit of advertising Dollars, the media seems to have forgotten this cardinal rule of journalism and instead, have become the paid servants of big business houses and political parties.

Media has Abdicated its Duty as a Watchdog of Democracy

In the United States, the media has always taken a pro-business line in its reporting. Inconvenient facts about big businesses have been ignored or swept away under the carpet and to satisfy their conscience, some minor news items have appeared from time to time.

However, in recent years, the media in the US has transformed itself into being the dedicated public relations units of corporates and big business houses. This can be seen in the way the media has reported news items related to the big oil, big Pharma, and big financial conglomerates.

Indeed, if the media had done its investigative work properly and paid heed to the numerous whistleblowers who were warning about the impending financial crisis, then the readers would have had time to prepare and protect themselves from the impact of the financial crisis.

The fact that in the run up to the crisis, the media were going all out proclaiming that the economy was doing fine is a sad commentary on the way the media has been co-opted by big business. Though there were a few stray voices here and there warning of catastrophe, they were either ignored or given some minor coverage, which meant that when the crisis struck, the impact was severe because the average citizen did not have any inkling about the severity of the problem.

Advertorials and Media

The next aspect that has become apparent is that in the US and the UK, the media is now focusing on becoming a paid advertiser for the corporate interests.

Considering the fact that the media around the world follow the lead set by these countries, in developing countries and the Third World, it has become commonplace for media houses to blur the distinction between news and advertisements. The situation has become so dire that entire segments in TV and entire pages in newspapers are now devoted to covering corporates in a friendly manner without criticizing them or pointing out flaws and controversies in their operations.

Closing Thoughts

As mentioned earlier, this is a worrisome trend as the developing countries like India have long cherished the independence of the media and the fact that the media in India has always been critical of the wrongdoings of the status quo powers. The reversal of this trend and the co-opting of the media in third world countries have meant that big business houses can do what they want and get away with it.

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