Reflecting on the future of the media, entertainment, telecom and social media, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari has urged the stakeholders to find the right balance, the ‘golden mean’, between freedom of speech and the restrictions imposed on it within the constitutional framework.
While clarifying that he personally believed that any regulation from outside was ‘anathema to a free press’, he said demands for such a framework could grow ‘increasingly in the public space.’ Mr. Tewari was speaking at an ASSOCHAM-INFOCOM conference here.
He referred to a September 2012 judgment in which the Supreme Court justified a temporary ban on publication of court proceedings in certain cases. “The court has been extremely careful and nuanced, but those who allege they are subjects of a media trial may use this to take remedies.” In this backdrop, Mr. Tewari appealed the media to engage in “self-regulation, introspection and self-discovery” to find the ‘golden mean.’
The Minister drew a line between ‘responsible and corrosive’ discourse and said the government efforts at digitisation could partially help address the root cause of ‘sensationalism’, which was a flawed revenue model. This was based on ratings determined by a sample size of 8,000 boxes in a country with over 150 million television sets. Calling it a ‘travesty’, Mr. Tewari appealed to the industry ‘to take the lead on audience measurement.’
Extending the debate to cinema, the Minister referred to the recent controversy over the screening of Vishwaroopam. “The core issue here is if we are we going to allow State governments to have a veto power on cinematic products cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification.” It led to a realisation that the entire framework of the CBFC needed to be re-examined. A committee set up by the Ministry would look at “reconciling Central and State government powers so that producers are spared the ignominy of knocking on one political door after the other.”
Mr. Tewari, who is credited with energising the government’s foray into the social media space, said the new platform had ‘democratised information space.’ Amid concerns that sections of the government are uneasy with the impact of this democratisation, he clarified, “The government has no desire to regulate, control or in any manner contain the social or new media.”
But he went on to distinguish between the ‘right to privacy and the right to anonymity’. “The abuse of the former is creating an atmosphere which has serious security implications.” Given the convergence among different mediums, there was need to relook the legal architecture.