The television coverage of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks has come in for flak from several quarters. Some channels have even earned the ire of the Information & Broadcasting Ministry, viz. India TV and Aaj Tak. I&B Ministry officials are reportedly meeting news broadcasters on December 10 on this issue.
It may be recalled that the I&B Ministry had issued a show cause notice to Aaj Tak on December 5, 2008, for telecasting and re-telecasting a news item in the form of ‘breaking news’ regarding firing at Marine Lines, CST and RBI in Mumbai by the alleged terrorists on November 28, 2008 at 1:30 pm. I&B Ministry had asked for the explanation from Aaj Tak, the deadline for which was 4 pm on December 8, 2008.
Aaj Tak has asked for extension from the Ministry till Friday, December 12, 2008, to submit its explanation.
The Ministry notice to Aaj Tak stated: “These news items telecast by Aaj Tak contained captions such as ‘Mumbai mein fir firing’ ‘Safed rang ki gaadi se firing’ ‘4 aatankee hone ki aashanka’, which apparently spread misinformation and panic among viewers.”
As per Section 5 of the Cable Television Networks (CTN) (Regulation) Act, 1995, read with Rule 6 (1) (d), (e) and (h) of the CTN Rules, 1994, as amended from time to time no programme can be transmitted on any cable service which contains anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half truth.
According to the I&B Ministry notice, “The basic condition for uplinking of a news and current affairs TV channel from India, whereby permission to uplink Aaj Tak had been granted on December 2, 2000, Aaj Tak is bound to follow the programme code and advertising code prescribed under the Cable Act. Further, in the event of failure to comply with any of the terms and conditions, permission/ approval granted is liable to be suspended/ cancelled.”
The Ministry’s tough stance is not towards Aaj Tak alone. Earlier, on December 1, 2008, India TV was served a notice for broadcasting a conversation with a terrorist holed up inside Nariman House in Mumbai. The hearing process in this case is still on.
This was followed by an advisory issued on December 3, 2008, with the Ministry asking all news and current affairs TV channels to desist from repeatedly showing the attack footage. The advisory sent out to all news channels had said that such coverage “may be treated as coverage against the interest of the nation in the circumstances and attract appropriate action as per rules and as per the terms and conditions of the permission granted for uplinking and downlinking of TV channels in India”.
The News Broadcasting Association (NBA) is said to be giving a collective response to the advisory, but when contacted, Annie Joseph, the official spokesperson for NBA refused to comment on the advisory.
Prior to that, the I&B Ministry had summoned the news media owners along with the Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) and NBA Chiefs on November 28, 2008, to express concern over the coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks by the national news channels.
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