‘But aren’t you going to pay?’

BY HOOT DESK| IN Media Practice | 21/09/2015
Reporters asked questions, took exclusive bites and even exchanged numbers during the event. But it became clear after the press meet that local reporters of the Telugu print media and TV channels wanted cash for their pains.
A HOOT report

 

It happened on September 19, 2015 at the Hyderabad Press Club at Somajiguda. In broad daylight, on the club premises while people were coming out of a well-attended press conference.

The afternoon press meet was called by victims of a real estate scam in this city. It was meant to be a plea for help made in the earnest hope that the media would lend its influence to their cause. The Owners Welfare Association of a housing project with the unlikely name of Aliens Space Station 1, were hoping to make a plea to the Chief Minister of Telangana through the media.

They were seeking his intervention to bail out the nearly 1,500 families that had risked their lives’ savings to own dream homes.

The event was unusually well-attended by the local media; aggrieved house owners of the project have held such press conferences  before and their plight is a matter of common knowledge. The owners claim that their flats, booked nearly a decade ago, have not been completed because the builders diverted the money collected to other projects, while they continue to suffer the burden of mounting bank loan payments and rentals. One would have thought that the house owners’ plight would have struck an empathetic chord with the journalists present.

The issue has quickly become one of Hyderabad's biggest real estate scams with 64 home owners filing police complaints and several others taking the company to court in an attempt to get back whatever they can. The flat owners of this yet to be completed project in the heart of the Hi-Tech city area of Hyderabad allege the scam to be worth well over Rs 300 Crores.

Press persons fielded questions, took exclusive bites and even exchanged numbers during the event. It however became clear after the press conference that local reporters of the Telugu print media and TV channels wanted to be paid for their pains. They wanted cash from the organizers in return for assured coverage. When they ganged up on the owners to demand money as the conference ended, the latter were left surprised and shocked.Others present at the press club could see what was going on.

Such events are not uncommon in this city. At another press club in Hyderabad, out-of-work reporters claiming affiliations to organizations with dubious-sounding names are known to fleece petty money from organizers. Word has it that they are willing to settle for as little as Rs 20. This issue is as much one of media ethics as it is about the plight of several journalists in a fast changing industry, leaving scores unemployed.

The corrupt in the media operate at all levels. Understanding the phenomenon at both ends however presents one with contrasting explanations. In small organizations operating locally, stringers and reporters are said to accept bribes to make ends meet, for their wages are closer to those earned in clerical jobs, and nowhere near the Wage Board recommendations. Unacceptable practices of journalists are linked to the management practices of owners.

Either way such practices are  an assault on the faith aggrieved citizens such as Aliens house-owners repose in the media. Press club sources say that the expectations of the journalists  making the demand would have been in the range of Rs 1000 to 5000.

And how much coverage was there in Telugu newspapers and TV channels finally?  It appears that to date, other than a report in  The Newsminute and this Hindu report, there has been none. 

 

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