Are government ads distorting media freedom?


Swapan Dasgupta in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The national capital boasts a multitude of daily newspapers in different languages. On my part, I subscribe to seven dailies and one is delivered to me free of charge. This Wednesday, which happened to be a public holiday on account of Janmashtami, I perused all eight of these Delhi editions for their advertisement content — the main revenue source for the print media. Four of the eight were entirely dependent on display or tender advertisements of either the government (both Central and state) or public-sector enterprises.

“Only three of the eight dailies had a healthy contribution of private sector advertisements in addition to the ones issued by State bodies. The methodology of assessment may not be entirely scientific, but I think it indicates a growing distortion in the media: their over-dependence on subsidies from the State.

“Expressed more cynically it suggests that there is an increased willingness — perhaps involuntary and triggered by market conditions — to be more accommodative to the concerns of the government. And what is true for the print media is even more applicable to the electronic media, where news-gathering expenses are higher and the operating losses even more significant.”

Infographic: courtesy The Economic Times

Read the full article: A growing distortion

Also read: What sustains our ‘free’ media is government ads

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  1. MG

    Govt departments are repeatedly approached by 2 bit periodicals for advertisements, and often succeed in getting full page ones. These are essentially bribes from ministers, or govt departments to the periodicals/newspapers to cover up their misdeeds. Every journalist knows how the whole scheme works. Advertising by the government should be cut down, especially tenders and notices which can easily be placed on a central website. If anything, website based tenders will bring in more transparency than the current system.

  2. Sam

    Only three of the eight dailies had a healthy contribution of private sector advertisements …

    If the ad is from a private sector, it is “healthy”? Really? By what logic? The media actually prefers ads from the government because

    (1) The government actually make less demand from them then private companies.

    (2) The government doesn’t negotiate the rates as forcefully as the private enterprises.

    (3) The government can’t spend all the money on a particular media organization and has to follow a set of criteria. And so all the large media organizations are assured a “piece of the pie”, which actually reduces the so-called influence of the government ads.

    We tend to forget that we are a democracy and the only ones accountable to us are the politicians and not private businesses. It is stupid then to say that the executive shouldn’t have some form of influence over the media which can otherwise be manipulated by private businesses for their own means.

    For us citizens, it is actually desirable that a balance between government and private ad spends be maintained by any media organization.

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