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Provocative content on TV: Is just an advisory by government enough?

Senior industry experts say some channels continue to show objectionable content and so the MIB should consider taking more stringent steps such as penalties

e4m by Sonam Saini
Published: May 4, 2022 9:00 AM  | 4 min read
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The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) last month issued a warning to private news channels against making false claims and running scandalous headlines about the Ukraine-Russia war and communal conflicts in Delhi. However, some news outlets, it seems, have ignored the government directive as they continue to broadcast such content, leaving us with an important question—Is just issuing an advisory on the matter enough or should government take more stringent action against the errant channels?

According to some industry senior observers and journalists, government intervention is needed, but instead of regulating the media industry/news content, the MIB should resort to actions such as penalties.

MIB, in its advisory issued on April 23, mentioned that several satellite TV channels have covered some events and incidents in a manner that appears to be "unauthentic, misleading, sensational, and using socially unacceptable language and remarks.”

A senior industry observer, who wished to remain anonymous, said MIB's main point was against warmongering over Ukraine-Russia conflict, with scandalous headlines such as predicting a third world war. "However, last week again, some channels had the same programming. Warmongering has clearly been identified as a means of increasing TRPs by the channels. Unless and until strict action is taken, channels are unlikely to abandon hatred over religion or the Ukraine-Russia war."

Veteran journalist and Padma Shri awardee Alok Mehta too agrees that some channels have not taken the advisory seriously. "Few news channels and YouTube channels are not following the guidelines, which is very unfortunate. Such news coverage has a negative impact on society." Mehta, however, believes that there should not be government censorship or restrictions on news. "I support media freedom of expression and believe that the government should not interfere. But at the same time there must be a limit."

Mehta suggested that not the government, but courts should impose restrictions.

“In the absence of government intervention, someone should go to court and request that this type of news coverage be stopped. It is necessary for the Supreme Court to intervene and impose some restrictions,” he mentioned. 

Sharing his disappointment over the matter, a senior editor of a news channel opined, “it's sad to see how some news channels increase viewership/TRP by promoting communal hatred and warmongering. Government intervention was required, but it has had little impact because some channels continued to spread hate."

However, like Mehta, he also believes that strict legislation is not the solution because it will jeopardise press freedom. “The government can impose some penalties, which will at the very least create fear among the channels,” he suggested.

Not just spreading hatred in the society, but airing such content on television, say senior industry experts, is also leading to news channels losing their credibility, driving advertisers away.

Sharing his thoughts on the matter at e4m NewsNext conference, Shashi Sinha, CEO of IPG Mediabrands and also the chairperson of TV ratings body BARC, said news channels are losing credibility among advertisers for the kind of content they are producing and the constant public battle for the number one spot.

“Personally, as an audience and a representative of the advertising industry, I would like to say that it is sad that the government had to intervene like this,” he said.

Meanwhile, highlighting the issue again at enba Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting Anurag Thakur said, “We have issued an advisory saying that the central government may regulate or prohibit the transmission or retransmission of any channel or programme, if it considers it necessary for protecting the interests of the country’s sovereignty.”

The government advisory \also stated that under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995, the government has the authority to regulate or prohibit the transmission/retransmission of a programme if it is not found to be in compliance with the prescribed Programme Code.

The government stated that no programme should be carried on cable that offends good taste or decency; criticises friendly countries; attacks religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or promote communal attitudes; and contains anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half truths.

 

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