Katju says media incapable of self regulation

As the issue of media regulation is raised in Parliament by Congress MP Meenakshi Natrajan, Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju has said the media, particularly television channels, have been unable to self-regulate and need monitoring.

FP Staff May 02, 2012 11:01:05 IST
Katju says media incapable of self regulation

As controversy brews over Congress MP Meenakshi Natrajan's legislation that is seeking rules to regulate the media, Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman Markandey Katju has said an independent body is needed to monitor the media given the self-regulation bodies haven't worked.

In an editorial in The Hindu today, Katju argues that the media's argument for allowing self regulation is flawed given that organisations like News Broadcasters Association or the Broadcast Editors Association which are supposed to regulate television channels are unable as they chase profits and higher TRP ratings.

Seeking greater regulation of the media, particularly television news channels, the PCI chairman says that the self regulatory body has still to suspend or cancel the license of a TV channel and has been opaque about the other punishments imposed. Katju has sought that the proceedings of the two media bodies be televised in order to introduce greater transparency in their functioning.

Katju says media incapable of self regulation

The Press Council Chairman Markandey Katju says bodies like the BEA and NBA have largely been ineffective. Image courtesy PIB


The Press Council chairman cites the specific case of India TV which was asked to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh in 2009 for airing an interview that the channel had not conducted.

However, the channel's editor Rajat Gupta was restored to the board of the NBA and the channel's managing editor, Vinod Kapri was brought back to the eminent editors panel in the organisation, he points out.

Does Katju have a point? A recent report by the Hoot had pointed out that most channels were only rapped on the knuckles with warnings and mostly got away with apologies despite having violated journalistic ethics.

Katju argues that the regulation of the media is as essential as any other law, because it is only the fear of punishment that can result in mantaining standards.

If the broadcast media claims self-regulation, then on the same logic everyone should be allowed self-regulation. Why then have laws at all, why have a law against theft, rape or murder? Why not abolish the Indian Penal Code and ask everyone to practise self-regulation? The very fact that there are laws proves that self-regulation is not sufficient, there must also be some external regulation and fear of punishment.

And for those who fear that they will have to deal with a man who last accused 90 percent of the nation's citizens of being fools, the Press Council chairman pointed out that there were 28 other members in the body who could overrule him.

So why isn't the television news industry interested in joining them? "Obviously because they want a free ride in India without any kind of regulation and freedom to do what they will," Katju says in the editorial.

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