The move seeks to negate the self-regulatory mechanism: NBA

Both news channels and print newspapers have united to oppose the Press Council of India’s move to bring the electronic media under its control.

On Thursday, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) said it was extremely disappointed by the resolution “unilaterally,” released by PCI chairman Markandey Katju, and “purportedly passed” by the Council on August 27, which urged the government to amend the law and include broadcast and social media within its ambit.

“The NBA strongly opposes this move which seeks to negate the self-regulatory mechanism that has been in force for the last several years and has had a very real and positive impact in improving broadcasting standards,” said a statement issued by NBA secretary-general Annie Joseph said. It urged Justice Katju to “engage himself constructively with print media matters, which is the mandate he has under the Press Council Act and not to exceed his remit on commenting upon areas which are outside his jurisdiction.”

Supreme Court’s censure

In fact, NBA president K.V.L. Narayan Rao — who is also executive vice chairperson of NDTV — says that news broadcasters are more worried about the Supreme Court’s recent rebuke regarding news channels’ coverage of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai. In its concluding remarks in the Kasab judgement, the apex court had said that “the mainstream electronic media has done much harm to the argument that any regulatory mechanism…must come only from within.”

“There is a difference between the Press Council saying something like this and the Supreme Court saying that, in their view, the self-regulation mechanism is not good enough,” Mr. Rao told The Hindu.

He felt that the News Broadcasting Standards Authority, set up in October 2008 under the chairmanship of former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma, had “done far more to improve the standard of television news than the Press Council had done for the print medium.”

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has also joined in to oppose the PCI move to “bestow on itself more powers under the guise of bringing the electronic media” within its purview.

In a statement on Thursday, INS president Ashish Bagga said: “Print and electronic media in any case are based on two different formats altogether, clearly requiring two distinctively separate sets of guidelines…INS believes that the press in India is time-tested and self-regulated with enough maturity to continue to play the crucial role of the Fourth Estate of our vibrant democracy responsibly.”

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