In a first-ever initiative by an association of private news and current affairs broadcasters in India, and as a measure of self-regulation, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has announced the constitution and establishment of the News Broadcasting Standards (Disputes Redressal) Authority to enforce NBA’s Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards. The Authority will become operational from October 2, 2008.
The nine-member Authority will be chaired by Justice JS Verma (formerly Chief Justice of India and former Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission). The other members include historian and author Ramachandra Guha; former President of Nasscom, Kiran Karnik; Prof Dipankar Gupta, well-known sociologist (JNU); Nitin Desai, economist and former Under Secretary General, United Nations. Members under Editors category include Vinod Kapri, Managing Editor, India TV; BV Rao, Group Editor, Zee News; Milind Khandekar, Managing Editor, Star News; and Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief, Times Now.
Speaking on the aim of the Authority, Prof Gupta said, “The aim of this Authority is to establish self-governance and some Code of Ethics, which would be monitored by a ‘jury of peers’. Another aim is to upgrade the quality of journalism, and if there are any problems, the method to address them will be clear and transparent.”
Talking on the mechanism for the channels, Nitin Desai said, “The mechanism will include all news channels that are members of NBA.”
In a release issued on August 22, the NBA stated that the Authority believed that media was meant to expose the lapses in government and in public, life could not be regulated by the government, else it would lack credibility. “It is a fundamental paradigm of freedom of speech that media must be free from governmental control in the matter of ‘content’ and that censorship and free speech are sworn enemies. It, therefore, falls upon the journalistic profession to evolve institutional checks and safeguards, specific to the electronic media that can define the path that would conform to the highest standards of rectitude and journalistic ethics and guide the media in the discharge of its solemn Constitutional duty,” the release further said.
The NBA added that it also believed that the basic strength of a news channel lay in its credibility, and a censure emanating from a jury of its peers would indisputably affect the credibility of a channel. The Authority further said, “Besides, such a process is not without its legal ramifications. Any channel acting in breach of established guidelines could hardly defend its motives or suggest that it was acting fairly, if it is censured by a jury comprising its peers. Interference by government, however well intentioned, would, however, imperil not just independent journalism, but the very process of investigation itself. It, therefore, has become imperative that news channels lay down guidelines, procedural safeguards and establish a body that would act as a watchdog and a grievance redressal forum.”
The NBA claimed that this initiative taken by the body has been welcomed by the Government.