In its nine years in power, the Narendra Modi government has spent more than Rs 2,300 crore, or over Rs 71 lakh each day, on advertisements in print media. And besides prominent dailies, several small papers – which are barely known in their home districts and allegedly do not meet even the government’s own print norms to be empanelled for ads – are also in the list of top beneficiaries.
While more than 50 percent of the total ad spend, or around Rs 1,300 crore, was taken by just 10 outlets in these nine years, there were hundreds of small papers in the list of over 5,169 recipients, according to government data analysed by Newslaundry. We chose three from different states for this report.
According to the union information and broadcasting ministry’s print , small papers, with certain exceptions, are defined as those with a circulation between 2,000 and 25,000. They need to ensure adherence to print requirements, such as no duplication of content, mandatory editorials, and proper credit for all articles, in order to meet the eligibility criteria for empanelment.
But Gujarat Vaibhav and Jagruk Times – which are at the 29th and 31st spots, respectively, in the list of print outlets with the highest central ad expenditure – allegedly violate several of these norms. So does Pradesh Today, ostensibly – the Madhya Pradesh daily was at the 45th spot with more than Rs 8.54 crore of ad spend over this nine-year period.
Jagruk Times is run by businessman Govind Purohit, whose two brothers are part of the BJP, whereas Gujarat Vaibhav is operated by Manish Videh, a businessman. The 13-year-old paper Pradesh Today, on the other hand, is owned by Hridayesh Dikshit, a former correspondent with Dainik Bhaskar.
According to data shared by the union information and broadcasting ministry from financial year 2014-15 till February 1, 2023, Gujarat Vaibhav, a 30-year-old Hindi daily based in Ahmedabad, got Rs 13.93 crore of ad money during this period while Jagruk Times, a 15-year-old Hindi newspaper headquartered in Rajasthan’s Sirohi, was given around Rs 12.38 crore.
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