Set up watchdog for electronic media: HC

Set up watchdog for electronic media: HC

Rejects idea of self-regulation by broadcasters,wants regulatory body of eminent persons

Quoting from a speech of former British prime minister Tony Blair who compared the media to a “feral beast”,the Delhi High Court on Tuesday recommended the Centre to put in place a “statutory regulatory body” for controlling the electronic media.

A bench led by Justice Pradeep Nandarajog rejected the idea of “self-regulation” by the broadcasters,underlining that the absence of state intervention on its own was no guarantee of a rich media environment. “On the contrary,to promote a media environment characterised by pluralism and diversity,State intervention is necessary,” ruled the court while adding that the regulatory body was required to ensure media organisations’ compliance with the provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act,1995,and the Cable Television Network Rules,1994.

“We recommend that a statutory regulatory body be constituted consisting of men and women of eminence. Security of tenure of a kind should be provided for the members of the board so that they are free from government interference,” held the court,saying the statutory board could comprise persons of eminence in the field of law,science,art and culture,literature,history and social sciences.

Pointing out that “social responsibilities are seen receding from artistic consciousness”,the court noted there was no reason why the legislature should not put in place a statutory,regulatory body also for electronic media when they already had such bodies for print media and cinema under the Press Council Act and the Cinematograph Act.


The court said till the time Centre sets up the statutory body,the existing self-regulatory body of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation — Broadcasting Consumers Complaint Committee,would continue adjudicating complaints for violation of the programme and advertising code and other provisions. “Its decisions shall be treated by the Union of India as the foundation to take appropriate action and pass necessary directions as also orders against the offender,” it directed.

The court was hearing a PIL by NGO Indraprastha People against the objectionable content of the reality show Emotional Atyachar by UTV Software Communication Ltd. Arguing for the petition,advocate Rahul Mehra pleaded for a statutory body,contending the self-corrective mechanism in today’s environment where media has become a money spinning devise would be an oxymoron.

The bench,accepting his views,observed that self-regulation was not enough in circumstances where even media personnel could be heard complaining that the taint of money has polluted the clear stream of reason,which should dictate the conscience of mass media.

“In the print media,paid news has already started sullying the stream of news. Similarly,the desperate rush to grab eyeballs due to higher revenue earned if viewership is more has led the broadcast media to sully itself with sensationalisation…. Transgression of individual privacy and the rush to produce programmes which may be tainted but attract viewership has been witnessed in the past,” it said.