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Updated: February 13, 2011 21:19 IST

Self-regulation ‘Council’ for media on the cards, says Ambika Soni

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A file picture of Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Ambika Soni. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt
The Hindu A file picture of Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting Ambika Soni. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Union Minister Ambika Soni today said that a ‘Council’, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge or ex-Chief Justice of a High Court, would be soon formed for self-regulation of the media.

Besides the Chairman, the ‘Council’ will have 12 other members consisting of four members of the broadcasters, four representatives of civil society and one representative each from NCW, NCPCR, National Commission for SC/ST and fourthly, a representative of the National Commission of the affected party, the I&B minister said at the seventh annual meet of Chandigarh Punjab Union of Journalists (CPUJ) here.

“The Ministry is at the threshold of (announcing) the two-tier system - one is for the individual channels confirming with the Cable Regulatory Act and second is to put in place the Council headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court,” the I&B minister said.

The minister said she had written to the Prime Minister earlier that she wanted to have two of her cabinet colleagues - Home Minister P Chidambaram and Law Minister Veerappa Moily, so that they could talk across the political spectrum on the issue and pass on the feedback to the television industry.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) would form a redressal committee in an effort to establish self-regulation on all non-news channels, she said.

“Our government believes that self-regulation is the best and most intelligent and independent method of regulation in a democratic set up like ours,” she said.

The IBF’s redressal committee will be similar to the News Broadcasting Standards Authority set up by News Broadcasters Association (NBA), which is headed by ex-CJI Justice JS Verma.

The Authority acts as a self-regulatory body for news channels.

Under the redressal mechanism, the viewers can address their grievances to the broadcaster or the channel in the first place. If the viewer is not satisfied with the channel’s response, then he/she can lodge a complaint with the redressal committee, the minister said.

Parliamentarians and representatives of civil society among others had felt that some non-news channels had been showing content which was difficult for families to watch, she said.

Referring to the ‘paid news’ phenomenon as a serious matter, she said that the issue was affecting the credibility of news reports.

“The paid news issue does not just crop up during the elections, but at other times as well. Media houses are becoming big corporates and if business corporate gives shares of his company to other corporates, then journalists (working in that media house) have to write columns praising that company, which may go bust in two months. Who would be responsible?” she wondered.

The paid news syndrome is becoming a threat to the media’s effort of upholding the democracy, the minister said.

A Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has been formed to take a holistic view on the issue and a way forward would be found, she added.

The I&B minister, later, said that the monopolisation of cable network system was not acceptable and the Centre will work out a way to tackle this issue.

“Monopolisation of cable network system in some states, including Punjab, is not acceptable... Soon the government will bring about some way of tackling this issue,” Ms. Soni told reporters here.

Main opposition Congress in Punjab has been repeatedly accusing the Parkash Singh Badal-led Akali government of monopolising the cable network system.

In an another event, she inaugurated ‘Jyotirgamaya’, the Panjab University Community Radio Station and Educational Multimedia Research Centre in the School of Communication Studies at Panjab University.

The minister said that it was the endeavour of the I&B Ministry to promote community radio stations as these were the bonding agents and involved the local population.

“These stations will also provide new avenues of profession for the youngsters who can even form groups to set up their own CRS,” she said.

Ms. Soni also called upon Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil here at the Raj Bhavan. She discussed various issues related to the people of Punjab with the Governor, an official spokesman said.

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