“Sting” videos reveal paid news racket of media: Rs 25 lacs pm for no negative stories

India has long been fighting the menace of paid news. Every now and then there are reports of how media news stories appear biased, fabricated or are outright lies. Sometimes it is also noticed that certain media houses avoid talking about certain issues. Very rarely is any monetary link is traced back to such incidents.

But yesterday, two shocking “sting” videos were released on social media, which claimed to show a clear nexus between a media house and corporates. The videos feature a man named “Advait” who is said to be the Assistant Manager of Sales of a Goan media house called “Herald“. Herald claims to be Goa’s oldest and largest circulated daily. The videos also show the presence of an unidentified person, who has presumably shot the videos, and who belongs to the Casino industry of Goa.

In the videos one can clearly see the Herald employee Advait, claiming that he has been sent by his General Manager, named “Michael” to tell the Casino representative that they have to cough up Rs 25 lacs per month as “ad support” to ensure that Herald stops publishing negative stories and further, helps push positive stories about Casinos.

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The “sting” further reveals that the Casinos were already paying them Rs 6 lac per annum as “ad support” and now the demand has been jacked up to Rs 25 lacs per month. The Casino representative is seen supposedly speaking to another person from a different Casino discussing how each of them would have to pay Rs 25 lacs per month from now on. The video describes how already a negative article has been stopped by this Herald employee Advait.

In the video, one can also see the Casino representative ask Advait whether these instructions are flowing from a person called “Raul”. Further, Advait confirms that his boss Michael will completely stop a “Sujay” from writing anything negative, and that this has happened on many occasions in the past.

So who are these people: Michael, Raul and Sujay?

Raul Fernandes, Managing Director of Herald Publications presenting a copy of the anniversary paper to Fr Oscar Quadros.
Raul Fernandes, Managing Director of Herald

Is the Michael mentioned above, the same Michael Pereira who happens to be the General Manager of Herald? Is Raul the same Raul Fernandes who happens to be the Managing Director of Herald? Is Sujay, the same Sujay Gupta who is the Herald Group Editor?

In the videos, Advait reveals that such deals have been struck by his media house in the past as well and this was not something new. One cannot verify the authenticity of the videos but this claim by Advait can surely be fact-checked. Herald in fact was caught in a similar “paid news” storm a few years back. Even at that point a sting was carried out by  journalist posing as a politician, striking a deal with an Herald employee for paid news in view of the upcoming polls in Goa.

The real question is this:

Will these videos be investigated and if anyone is indeed guilty will they be brought to book? Will any national media house dare to break the code of Omerta to carry these videos as they do for any number of politicians? Or will this news die a slow death?

The videos can be seen here:

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