Andhra govt to outsource PR to journos

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Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu during a press conference in Hyderabad on Nov.13, 2013. (Photo: IANS)

Incentive will be the Rs 51,500 pay                                                                

Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu during a press conference in Hyderabad on Nov.13, 2013. (Photo: IANS)

By Karan Kaushik

N Chandrababu Naidu’s Andhra Pradesh government has rolled out a new scheme for journalists in the state. In a General Order issued on December 7, the government has given permission to the Commissioner of Information and Public Relations in the southern state to establish special teams of journalists to carry out publicity work as a Back Office for the Chief Minister’s Office.

The journalists will be employed on outsourcing basis and paid up to Rs 51,500 per month. The expenditure of monitoring these special teams will be paid through the accounts office of Information and Public Relations.

Despite the presence of a knowledge center that takes care of publicity and monitoring in the Chief Minister’s Office, Naidu’s office has now come up with this move of employing journalists at public expense.

The job of the already existing knowledge center is to scan all media coverage and launch counter-narratives to negative stories. But it seems that the leader feels that the PR department of his government needs to strengthen up even more and that is why his government has called in journalists to carry out the job.

What could possibly attract journalists to take up the job of a public relations officer for the government of the state is the handsome salary. Usually, journalists start their careers with salaries as low as Rs 10,000-15,000 per month. A few earn Rs 25,000 after getting some experience and the more experienced ones earn Rs 40,000-50,000.

Only a few manage to draw huge salaries so the remuneration by the Andhra Pradesh government will surely be attractive.

One point to be noted here is that journalists who will work for the Chief Minister’s Office as PR professionals will not be a part of the formal employment structure of the government. As a part of their job, they will be bound to go soft on the state. Also, those journalists wishing to take up this job in future will be careful of what they write or say about the government and its policies.

They might be satisfied with increased pay for their work but handling the public relations of the government is something their conscience might not be quite comfortable with.

It would be interesting to know how the Press Council of India and other Press Unions across the country react to this move by the Naidu government.