Is co-regulation of content on television the way forward? A panel discussion organised by ITA with I &B Minister Ambika Soni and captains of the industry addressed the issue at hand.
Co-regulation of content,and digitisation according to leading broadcasters and I & B minister Ambika Soni is the way forward for the television industry that has witnessed unbridled growth in the last 15 years3000 crore revenue is generated by the industry. During a panel discussion about content regulation in television organised by Anu and Shashi Ranjan,the force behind ITA,several questions were raised about the government control. The panel that comprised Information & Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni,political leaders Sharad Yadav and Ravi Shankar Prasad,LV Krishnan (TAM),G Krishnan (CEO,Aaj Tak),Uday Shankar (CEO,Star TV),Rajat Sharma (India TV,CEO) and Rajdeep Sardesai (CNN-IBN programming chief) with Shashi and Anu Ranjan as moderators,threw up some interesting questions about censorship from both ends of the spectrum.
Uday Shankar (CEO,Star India) was of the opinion that with the climate of trust and collaboration encouraged by the ministry,regulation could be examined.
Rajdeep Sardesai however felt that broadcasters were being made whipping-boys for no reason in particular. Our channel did a show on a politician and corruption and my channel was pulled off air for two days in that particular state. Fact of the matter is that in every state politicians control the cable networks leading to these situations and there should be laws in place to protect us.
Political presence in the cable industry was discussed at length and criticised by the gathering as it is linked to the other big problem of revenues from subscription. That all channels are heavily dependent on revenues from advertisements leading to dilution of content was another problem discussed. Rajat Sharma and Sardesai reiterated that most editors,on matters of national interest,exercised self-regulation and pulled off news that could be detrimental.
G Krishnan was of the view that content was best controlled by market forces.
Members of the political brigade,especially Sharad Yadav and Ravi Shankar Prasad,however,reiterated the need for transparency and accountability of the media. Yadav questioned Ashwini Yardi,programming head (Colors) about the need for regressive programs such as Balika Vadhu and Na Aana Is Des Laado on channels.
Yeh vigyaan ki cheez hai issko andhvishwas phailane ke liye mat istemaal karo, he said, further citing examples of astrologers and palmists on news channels. Both felt that an independent regulatory body sans political intervention was needed for better functioning of the broadcasters.
Ravi Shankar Prasad added that promotional lines such as Brahmin Ki Ladki Aur Kayasth Ka Ladka should not be used by general entertainment channels.
The issue of paid news in both print media and television was also raised during the discussion. Most of those present were of the view that while paid-for news in the print media was allowed unchecked,news channels were made whipping boys for paid content.
Soni,however,was sympathetic and pointed out that over the last year the number of advisories and surveys conducted by her department had reduced,suggesting an effort to self-regulate. She further pointed out that efforts were underway to form a neutral apex body with a former Supreme Court Chief Justice and eminent citizens (non-political) for co-regulation generating some optimism.