The role of media has come under the sharp scanner of the I&B Ministry, with Anand Sharma, Minister of State for External Affairs and Information & Broadcasting, making a slew of announcements at the Lok Sabha on December 17. These included prescribed codes to be adhered for telecast of programmes and advertisements; recommendations of TRAI on political and religious TV channels; and self-regulation guidelines of NBA to incorporate emergency protocol.
In written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, Sharma said, “Government of India had set up an Intern Ministerial Committee (IMC). IMC will review the existing Programmes and Advertisement Codes prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, and rules framed thereunder with a view to containing the adverse effect of programmes and advertisements on viewers, specially children. Though the Committee has submitted its report, no time-frame has been fixed for its implementation.”
According to a senior broadcasting official, “The tug of war between the Government mandate and self regulation just became bitter. Woes of news channels continue. NBA was to meet today for the own self-regulation guidelines post which a press conference was to be held, which was cancelled later though. There were some stringent guidelines given by the chairperson retired Justice JS Verma, which were not accepted by the editors.”
It is learnt that that a more practical and comprehensive ‘Emergency Protocol’ guideline would be formed on December 18 and would be unveiled at a press meet in the Capital the same day at around 4 pm.
“Keeping in mind the public interest and interest of national security, the I&B Ministry had directed all news and current affairs channels to ensure that the coverage of the incidents relating to the recent terrorists attack in Mumbai did not focus on or report the location, strength, movement strategy or any related operations being followed by the security forces engaging with the terrorists as it might jeopardise their position. The channels were also directed that close-ups and images of blood or seriously wounded or disfigured limbs or bodies or images of the dead or seriously wounded people, which might seriously distress a substantial number of viewers or cause panic and incite further violence, may not be carried,” Sharma added.
The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has prescribed its own self-regulation guidelines and has agreed to incorporate an ‘Emergency Protocol’ to supplement these guidelines to address such concerns.
Some of the important guidelines for the news and current channels include: Broadcasters shall observe general community standards of decency and civility in news content and scheduling, taking particular care to protect the interest and sensitivities of children and general family viewing. Great care and sensitivity should be exercised to avoid shocking, offending or misleading the audience. News should not jeopardise the security of the nation and care should be taken that news broadcasts are in the interest of the nation. All plans for broadcasts, which explore and expose the views of people who use or advocate violence for the achievement of political ends, must be considered carefully by senior editorial/ management before any arrangements for broadcasting are made.
Sharma further said, “The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has submitted its recommendations to the Government in which, among other things, it has recommended the continuance of existing policy framework of not allowing States, political/ religious bodies to enter into broadcasting and distribution services. However, it has recommended that political bodies should be allowed reasonable access to time over air time of the public service broadcaster. Certain categories of private channels may also be subjected to legal obligations to provide reasonable access to air time to political parties specifically during elections to Parliament and State Assemblies.”
At present, Rule 7(9) in the Advertising Code of the Cable Networks Rules, 1994, recognises the Code for Self Regulation adopted by Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). The Government has also constituted an Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) to look into the violation of the existing Programme and Advertising Codes and recommended appropriate action.
This information was given by the Minister of State for External Affairs and Information & Broadcasting in written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on December 18, 2008.
NBA to form emergency protocol for coverage of crisis situations