In May 2010, Hindi TV channel Sahara Samay presented a five-point proposal to the public relations department of the Chhattisgarh government about covering government activities during 2010-11:
1. Two-minute special package: Sahara Samay will show the package 15 times a day during news bulletins. It will contain “CM’s speeches, government policies, and special news related to various departments.” Cost: Rs 3.28 crore per year at Rs 3,000 per minute.
2. Live telecast of CM’s public meetings: “Whenever the chief minister makes a visit or addresses any meeting anywhere in the state, Sahara Samay will deploy its OB (Outdoor Broadcast) van and telecast the programme live for 10 minutes.” Cost: Rs 48 lakh per year for four broadcasts every month costing Rs 1 lakh each.
3. Ticker: People will be made aware of various government schemes for 10 hours a day, five of those hours during prime time. Cost: Rs 60 lakh per year.
4. Special package: “The channel will do a half-hour story on government schemes that have made a mark nationally, and how well Central schemes are being implemented in Chhattisgarh, and telecast it on its national, NCR and MP-Chhattisgarh channels. Schemes of the honourable CM will be presented in a better manner on the channel.” Cost: Rs 50 lakh per year for two programmes a month.
5. Side panel: “It’s a strip that will be displayed on 30 per cent of the screen and will carry a beautiful picture of CM Raman Singh with children and nice slogans.” Cost: Rs 14.6 lakh per year.
The proposals did not raise any eyebrows at the PR department, even though a leading news channel was quoting a price for covering the government and not to produce sponsored programmes or advertorials. After all, such arrangements had been in vogue for at least three years and this was not the first time a TV channel had sought to enter into a coverage deal with the government. Sahara Samay and the department haggled over the rates before the proposals were approved.
The Indian Express is in the possession of nearly 200 such documents of Chhattisgarh's PR department and letters from senior editors of TV channels that chronicle a flagrantly unethical relationship between the state and its leading private TV channels. The documents cover a span of about five years starting 2007 and contain proposals from channels to produce “news stories” and “provide positive coverage of government programmes”, price negotiations and approvals,