Bribery for News Coverage: Research in Poland

This paper starts with an overview of the development of Polish media and public relations that established a ground for current practice. The paper then reports the results of a study conducted among the Polish communication leaders on credibility and media bribery practices of Polish media. The total of 287 communication leaders (99 journalists, 90 marketing specialists, and 98 PR practitioners) were asked to provide their opinions and perceptions on the number of issues related to media bribery.

The results of the study showed that the Polish communication leaders, especially PR practitioners, often face media bribery at the workplace. Two types of media bribery, indirect and direct, were identified and studied. The results showed that communication leaders were more concerned with indirect cases of media bribery, such as publishing publicity materials in exchange for advertising in the same media, putting financial pressure on media outlets to present information that comes from news sources, specifically, companies and PR agencies. The direct form of media bribery – actual payments for coverage – happened less frequently. A vast majority of respondents (72%) strongly agreed that the media bribery practice is unacceptable.

Almost a half of PR professionals but only a third of journalists reported they agree PR is practiced in ethical manner. At the same time, about a quarter of PR professionals, 40% of journalists, and almost half of the marketing specialists disagreed with this statement. The paper concludes that journalists and PR professionals in Poland need to unite their forces to successfully communicate the nature and importance of ethical publicity. PR professionals have a responsibility to demonstrate to their organizations and clients, as well as to the media representatives, how media relations work and what can and cannot be done if one wants to practice public relations ethically.

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