A sub-committee of the Press Council of India, the statutory media watchdog, has held the Hindustan Times, published by the HT Media Ltd, not guilty of indulging in “paid news”. An inquiry report has found no evidence to suggest that any of HT's reports during the 2010 assembly elections in Bihar was favourable to any party or individual.
“Paid news” is the news that is paid for by clients such as politicians or celebrities for personal advantage — a fact often concealed from readers.
The Hindu in a January 29 report claimed that the press council had held HT, along with other newspapers, guilty of printing “paid news” during the Bihar polls.
In its proceedings on April 2, a watchdog sub-committee found “no further merit” in the case against HT, its publishers or editorial teams, absolving the newspaper of any wrongdoing.
In an earlier ruling, the PCI had said some newspapers, including HT, had published reports favourable to the Janata Dal-U after complaints by an observer of the election commission in Bihar. The press council had passed a consolidated order and did not individually go into the case sought to be made against HT.
Upon a fresh inquiry, the case was found baseless on the grounds that the election commission had made no such comments and, importantly, there was no evidence to suggest misconduct on the part of HT.
The allegations had prompted HT to run internal checks, conduct content audits and review its entire gamut of news operations.
Following this, HT’s editor-in-chief Sanjoy Narayan made a front-page declaration on February 1, stating: “We did not, and do not, believe in paid news.”
HT assures its readers of the integrity of our newsgathering and newsroom processes. Quality, truthfulness and ethical reporting will always remain integral to our business.