The Information and Broadcasting Ministry and the News Broadcasting Authority (NBA), along with representatives of some of the news channels, met on December 11 to discuss the recent coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks. The often ‘runaway’ coverage has earned the Ministry’s ire, which has pulled up the channels. The NBA has now agreed to form an ‘emergency protocol’ to cover crisis situations like the Mumbai attacks or involving any special operation of the armed forces.
From the broadcasters’ side, the meeting was attended by the who’s who of Indian media – Aroon Purie Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group; Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, CNN-IBN and IBN7; Rajat Sharma, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, India TV; Jawahar Goel, President, IBF; KVL Narayan Rao, Group CEO, NDTV; Barkha Dutt, Group Editor - English News, NDTV; and Sameer Manchanda, Managing Director, GBN, among others.
The day began with Annie Joseph, Secretary General, NBA, sending a letter to Prawin Kumar, Director (BC), I&B Ministry, rejecting the two advisories issued by the Ministry, in a continuing stand-off between the audio-visual media and the Government over the coverage of terror attacks and threats.
At the meeting convened by Anand Sharma, Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, with the representatives of NBA and other television broadcasters, the Government appreciated the self-regulation and redressal regulations adopted by the Association for its members. The Secretary, I&B Ministry, reiterated the Government’s stand that the first level of regulation would always ‘vest with the broadcasters’.
Joseph said, “The broadcasters on their part reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the self-regulation guidelines in the light of dramatic events of 26/11 and its aftermath. The Authority set up by the NBA under the Chairmanship of Justice (Retd.) JS Verma, former Chief Justice of India, would work towards creating an emergency protocol for all news channels in 26/11 like situations.”
Idea of setting up the protocol emerged during the meeting. The protocol, which could be one of the several amendments to the existing Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995, includes proposals to delay live coverage of sensitive incidents and to expunge information on operational details.
The NBA, however, rejected the idea of an authority that would formulate the emergency protocol to be set up under the chairmanship of any of the three service chiefs or any official from the I&B Ministry. The broadcasters maintained that they themselves would take the initiative to set up such an authority.