The Press Trust of India (PTI) has found itself in quite a spot of bother after it provided a platform to the Chinese ambassador to run their propaganda. In an interview with the news agency, Sun Weidong placed the entire blame for the Galwan Valley clash at India’s feet without ever being confronted by the PTI over the Chinese propaganda.
The Government of India appears to have taken a strong position against the conduct of the PTI, a sentiment that was shared by many across the board. As we had reported yesterday, Prasar Bharti has decided to review its relationship with the PTI following the ‘interview’ which some people have called a press release by the Chinese Communist Party.
Sources had told us that PTI’s ‘anti-national’ reporting does not make it feasible for Prasar Bharti to carry forward the relationship. The PTI has been receiving fees from the public broadcaster for decades, which run into crores. We have been told that PTI will be informed of Prasar Bharati’s decision soon. Sources have now told us that since 1980, PTI has received nearly Rs. 200 crores in public funding with no public accountability.
In today’s terms, the funding would be equivalent to an investment of Rs. 400 to Rs. 800 crores, depending on the interest rate. Sources told us that the authorities believe there needs to be greater transparency on how much the PTI charges private media organisations in comparison with the public funding that is sought.
Another major concern is that majority of directors on the board of PTI are from private media organisations. Prasar Bharati believes that PTI charges them much more than what it charges from private newspapers and news channels for their subscription, and the public broadcaster is of the opinion that there should be transparency in the pricing. It is learnt that a thorough review is being sought of the professional relationship between the PTI and Prasar Bharti.
It appears that the authorities have had enough with the transgressions of the PTI. It will become evident in the days to come whether PTI will lose public funding. The news agency, of course, has a history of peddling communally charged fake news and fake news on political matters as well. However, by providing a platform to China to run its propaganda, PTI appears to have crossed the line.
How does a news agency earn its revenue?
The PTI is a news agency and hence, earns its revenue by distributing its news reports among those who have bought their subscription. A news agency thus earns its revenue by gathering reports and then selling it to interested parties. PTI reports, for example, appear on most mainstream media outlets. Other news agencies like ANI, IANS and UNI, and global agencies like Reuters and AP etc also have numerous subscribers among media outlets.
Long history of fake news
Apart from the current controversy regarding PTI, the agency also has a long history of peddling fake news. As news organisations publish agency reports without any editing most of the times, fake news by news agencies have much more reach compared such fake reports by individual media houses. In July last hear, PTI had published a report claiming that finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in parliament that demonetisation has no affect on economy. The finance minister herself had to clarify that she didn’t made any such statement, after several media houses carried the misleading report.
During Delhi assembly elections this year, PTI had completely misreported the share of candidates with criminal records from various parties. While AAP had 51% candidates facing serious criminal cases, PTI reported it as only 25%, misquoting a report by Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR). Similarly, they had also changed the numbers for BJP and Congress.
In 2017, Press Trust of India had claimed that the UP government had drastically cut the budgetary allocation for secondary and higher education in the state. In that instant too, they had reported wrong numbers. In the same year, PTI had come out with a news feed which claimed that the former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had planned the 2016 surgical strikes in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir due to an “insulting question” of a TV news anchor, which was completely false.
After the anti-CAA riots last year, the UP govt had decided to take over and auction properties of rioters to recover money for damages caused to public and private properties by them. But this step was also misreported by PTI, which claimed that Yogi Adityanath had“vowed to take ‘revenge’ against those involved in the violence.
These were just a few example of fake news by the news agency, they regularly published fake, misleading and slanted reports, which are widely carried by the media houses.