Sunday afternoon and I'm flipping channels when I spot this on the ticker of CNN IBN: Nobel Laureate Kroto visits Amity campus: says Amity students most exciting he has ever met.
Yeah, right. I mean sure Kroto must have visited Amity and made some pleasant remarks about the students but to see this flashed on national television under the heading "Edu News" is a bit much. And this, on a channel that says it is serious about journalism and will do 'whatever it takes.'
Of course, it's an advertisement - just like Medianet articles in Bombay Times - but surely you can't put such information out on a ticker under the heading "Edu News". Imagine a ticker ad bought by Narendra Modi or Uma Bharti. If you wouldn't book misleading "ads" issued by politicians why are educational institutes exempt? Because they should not be.
Especially in the light of:
1) Students sue Amity
2) This site recently put up by folks claiming to be Amity's own students
But the issue is not even how genuine Amity is. The issue is that advertisements must clearly APPEAR to be advertisements on a news ticker. Otherwise they will be mistaken for news - and that would tarnish the reputation of the channel as a whole.
And oh, the same 'news' was running on Star News as well. But then, one doesn't really have very high expectations from that channel!
Lastly, for all I know Google Adsense is going to deliver an Amity ad in the space right above this post. Such is the irony of life... But you clearly know it's an ad, right? That's all I am asking the powers that be in television to ensure.
Correction: I saw the ad again and it does say "advertisement" on the right hand corner. However "Edu News" is far more prominent on the left hand corner and this apparently is the handiwork of the advertiser and not the channel.
However, as a viewer I still feel misled. As a publisher and media owner I am the last one on the planet to suggest channels should not make money from ads. But in certain cases one does have to intervene and specify what is acceptable and what is not.
It's a classic marketing vs editorial disagreement and I've had more than a few in my own organisation and others I've worked at. Like I said, it's a question of expectation. I trust CNN IBN more than most other news channels and hence feel the need to point this out!
Lastly, education has to be treated in a manner different from other 'consumer products'. It's one thing to see an exaggerated claim from a cosmetic product (at worst you lose a hundred bucks when the cream does not make you thinner, fairer or Miss India). But an investment in education is time, money and one's future.
Of course, it's upto students and parents to do the due diligence before joining any course. But some amount of responsibility falls on the media as well because despite what a few bloggers may think, people do believe what they perceive to be 'news'.