The Madhya Pradesh government doled out Rs 93 crores in the last 4 year in giving advertisements to 'unknown' news websites and news channel. The government has also given Rs 58 crores to 107 institutions for 'regional publicity' of the government.
This information was shared by the Madhya Pradesh public relation minister Rajendra Shukla in the state assembly in response to a question raised by Congress MLA Bala Bachchan.
Out of the 235 plus websites that were given the government ad, only 25 to 30 websites are those which disseminate news regularly and see a regular ‘hits’ and traffic. Many of the websites mentioned in the reply provided by the state government, are websites whose existence was not known to even the local Bhopal based journalists, whom I spoke to.
“Most of these websites are run by journalists who are working in other organizations. Since it is illegal to earn income from two source, these journalists are running the websites in the name of their relatives and wives. The government with an intent to keep them in good humor and oblige them, has readily released government ads to their websites, which do not see even 10 hits in a day”, a Bhopal based bureau chief of a national English daily, pointing to the name of the website that is owned by a wife of journalist of a national news agency, said.
A careful perusal of the list revealed that the registered address of many of these websites was government flats and bungalows that are allotted to journalists if the are a part of a national daily. “ A journalist of the largest selling English daily is no longer a part of that newspaper, but he continues to enjoy the government hospitality by way of the government ad that his websites receives and the government bungalow that he continues to live in. Similarly, a former employee of an English news agency continues to enjoy the bungalow as he is still a journalist in the technical term because he is running a website that got Rs 15 lakh ”, an official with the Directorate of Public Relations (DPR) stated. As per previous rules, the government bungalows can only be allotted to those journalists who are working for national newspaper.
While choosing firms for ‘regional advertisement’ of government work, the DPR released Rs 21 crores to an agency that is known to be run by a BJP functionary.