Govt considering a code of conduct for TV channels, says Javadekar.

The government is thinking of developing a common code of conduct for TV channels while also considering giving enhanced powers to the Press Council of India (PCI), information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar said on Monday.

Javadekar also asserted that government felt that it should not step into the regulatory domain and self-regulation by those in the profession was the ideal system, although, in the case of so-called over the top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, the government has effectively rejected any effort at self-regulation.

Speaking at an event organized by the PCI on the occasion of National Press Day, Javadekar said that while the Press Council oversees the print domain there was no similar system for the electronic media.

“There is no system like the Press Council for TV channels so there should be a system of self-regulation. An organization has been formed which is headed by Justice Sikri which even gives punishment and asks channels to apologies if required. However, many channels are not even members of this system and we can’t leave things like that,” Javadekar said.

The I&B minister said that many people were suggesting a common code of conduct for all TV channels. “We have not taken a final decision but are definitely discussing it,” the minister said. Complaints related to content are presently handled by the News Broadcasters Standards Authority which is headed by Justice (retd) A K Sikri.

Javadekar said that there was a demand to also increase the powers of the PCI. “Some people are demanding that there should be more power to Press Council. This is being considered,” the minister said.

The minister’s comments come days after the government brought digital media and OTT platforms under the I&B ministry’s purview. Rules for these are yet to be released, though. There have been demands in the past that the Press Council of India be converted into a Media Council with digital and even electronic platforms under its ambit.

For OTT platforms there is neither a platform like the PCI not a self-regulatory mechanism, Javdekar said. “There can be good films, bad ones and very bad ones on these platforms. That is why, what can be done there? People are giving suggestions and we are looking into all of them. These are the challenges.

Interestingly, in January 2019, the main OTT platforms cam together and signed a self-regulatory code but the government has refused to sign off on this.

Speaking on the issue of TRP manipulation, an issue that came to fore with the arrest of TV anchor Arnab Goswami, Javadekar said while the government is reluctant to enter this domain, it has set up a committee to look into the issue.

“To check the possibility of any TRP manipulation and address the issue, we have formed a committee which will give its report very soon,” he said.

The event also saw messages from President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi being read out or aired. All of these emphasized on the importance of a free media while also lauding the work done by journalists to spread awareness about Covid-19.

In his written message, which was read out at the event, President Ram Nath Kovind said media persons were among front-line corona warriors, playing a major role in educating people and mitigating the impact of the pandemic.

The vice president, in a video message, said the press in India has always been at the vanguard of protecting and strengthening the foundations of democracy.

He said that any attack on the freedom of the press is detrimental to national interests and should be opposed.

“Democracy cannot survive without a free and fearless press. Therefore, any attack on the freedom of the press is detrimental to national interests and should be opposed by one and all,” Naidu said.

The prime minister also lauded the media for doing an exceptional service by spreading awareness against Covid-19 and said that it has acted as a valuable stakeholder in helping government in its initiatives. His message was read out by PCI Chairman C K Prasad.

Modi said that at a time the world is up against an unprecedented crisis in the form of Covid-19, the nation’s fight against the pandemic is powered by the restraint and resolve of its 130 crore citizens.

“In such a scenario, the media has been continuously doing exceptional service by spreading awareness against the Covid pandemic. In a post-Covid world, India is marching ahead with its resolve to build a strong and ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’. Media is giving our resolve the shape of a big campaign and carrying forward the message of ‘Vocal for Local’,” he said.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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