‘Unregulated electronic media playing havoc with lives of people’

Terming broadcasters’ attempts at self-regulation “futile and meaningless,” the Press Council of India (PCI) has asked the government to amend law and bring the electronic media — both broadcast and social — under the ambit of an expanded and renamed Media Council.

PCI chairman Markandey Katju has been urging the inclusion of the electronic media under the Council’s regulatory umbrella ever since he took charge last year. However, the recent exodus of people from the northeast from several metros, allegedly misled by an unregulated electronic media, seems to have been a trigger for the PCI’s new resolve.

At a meeting here on Monday, the PCI passed a resolution asking the Union government to amend the Press Council Act, 1978, by bringing the electronic media within the purview of the Act, renaming it as The Media Council, and giving it more powers.

Given the “prevailing circumstances of the country… there should not be any dilly-dallying in the matter by the government,” said a PCI statement.

Interestingly, the PCI resolution specifically refers to the social media as well as the broadcast media.

“In recent times, experience has shown that the unregulated electronic media is playing havoc with the lives of people. An example is what happened to the people of the northeast,” it said.

When the Press Council Act was originally enacted, there was no electronic media, but the law now needed to be amended to take the current situation into account.

“Journalistic ethics apply not only to the print media,” said the PCI resolution.

The Council dismissed the assertion of the broadcast media that their own self-regulatory measures are sufficient, with any further governmental oversight amounting to an attack on the freedom of the press.

“Experience has shown that the claim of the broadcast media for self-regulation is futile and meaningless, because self-regulation is an oxymoron,” said the statement.

“Regulation is different from control. In control, there is no freedom, while in regulation, there is freedom, but it is subject to reasonable restrictions in the public interest,” it said.

Regulation should be done by an independent statutory authority, including media representatives, such as the proposed Media Council, than by the government, said the PCI resolution.

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