Talking of “constraints” that “shackle” the Press Council of India, its chief Justice (retd) C.K Prasad on Monday talked about the need to expand the Council’s ambit by including internet and television within its jurisdiction. Currently, the PCI deals only with the print media.
“As we all know, the media today is no longer made up of those who put words on paper. It extends to the internet and to television. It is necessary for society and government to recognise that the noble objectives behind setting up the Council can never fully be realised if its activities are restricted to the print media,” Prasad said, while speaking at a function to mark the National Press Day today. “Furthermore, the Council as a body made up of different groups of informed stakeholders, is best placed to play such a regulatory role,” he added.
Prasad also talked about “taking a careful look at the Council’s funding”. “At present, our activities are funded by annual subscriptions paid by registered newspapers. The balance is met from grants given by the government. In order to ensure that the Council remains a truly autonomous body, the funding by media stakeholders must go up with proportionately that by the Government is reduced,” he said. He added that the Council has sent proposals, in the form of unanimous resolutions passed by it, to the Government in this regards and hopes these will be notified at the very earliest.
The PCI chief also talked about the need for the press watchdog to become “better armed”. “At a time when attacks on members of the Press are on the rise, it is incumbent upon society to ensure that the Council is provided with the powers to act an an effective interventionist,” he said.
“In parallel, the Council must possess the powers to tackle aberrations by the Press to ensure that members of the Fourth Estate maintain the highest professional standards. In the absence of such powers, the Council is forced to act more on the basis of moral persuasion than legal persuasion. This is far from an ideal situation and one that needs to be remedied,” Prasad added.
The PCI chief also pointed out that in the decades since legislation to set up the Council was enacted, “our democracy and our media have evolved significantly” and that “while legislation has kept pace with developments in other areas vital for the functioning of our democracy such as electoral reforms, attempts to update the Press Council Act to bring it in tune with contemporary realities have until now only been academic exercises”.