Relevance of Meenakshi Natarajan’s Bill…Justice or Drama??

July 17, 2013

Relevance of Meenakshi Natarajan’s Bill…Justice or Drama??

The Print and Electronic Media Standards and Regulation Bill,2012 bought in the Parliament by Congress Leader Meenakshi Natarajan is one of the most recent issues that attracted the public attention.
                                       The Bill provides among many other things a regulatory authority with sweeping powers including a ban or suspending coverage of an incident or event that may pose a threat to national security from foreign or internal sources.It also provides a fine of fifty lakh rupees,
suspension of a media organisation’s liscense for upto eleven months and cancellation in some cases.Political parties like Congress and BJP criticised the bill without going into the merits of the issue.
                                 Markendey Katju,Press Council of India’s Chairperson and the former Judge of The Supreme Court of India stated that media should be regulated saying that it would prevent unpleasant material from making into the public domain.If red lines can be drawn for the legal and medical profession then why should it be different for profit making news papers or television channels?
According to him,media is to be regulated and not controlled.While there is no freedom in control,regulation entitles one with freedom subject to reasonable restrictions in public interest.
                                 The media has become very powerful in India and can strongly impact people’s life.Hence,it must be regulated for the sake of public interest.While Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution which gurantees the freedom of speech and expression,Article 19(2) states that the above right is subjected to reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignity and integrity of India,State security,public order,decency,morality or in relation to defamation or incitement to an offence.
                              Media people often talks of self regulation.But media houses are owned by businessman who want to make profit by increasing the channel’s TRP.
However,there is nothing wrong in making profits but that should co-exist with a bunch of social responsibilities.
                          In these days,channels are opening like mushrooms and most of the channel reflects some political parties.Like in West Bengal, ‘Star Ananda’ recently named as ‘ABP Ananda’ represents All India Trinamool Congress’s ideologies.It should not be done.With this situation it becomes very difficult for some clean and honest people to come into politics and establish a political party.Noone covers you if you are honest and independent.As per my opinion,Media should not get into political parties but remain independent.
                                       Justice Katju is of the view that media is giving importance to issues like Astrology,Cricket,Cinema etc inspite of covering issues like famine and poverty.I disagree with his views as it is entirely the decission of the channels what to cover or not.In this regard,regulation of media will keep a barrier on them.What we need is an independent autonomous  regulatory body that takes into conduct,views complaints and imposes penalties on channels that goes against the code of conduct.The Press Council of India(PCI) at present is a toothless body and has very limited powers.The Ofcom Model in UK can be a good model to follow.
                         Ofcom is an autonomous regulatory authority constituted by extremely respected members from all walks of life including the media,law and civil society.It has the power to take the action against erring channels.Though the BBC has a stringent code of ethics it has been pulled up often for violation of rules.This is an instance of self regulation coexisting with external regulation.We could have a similar model in India whereby the regulatory body has the power to punish the erring channels and force them to apologise.
                                       It is not only that the call for regulatory authority has come from the Government but from other quarters such as industry the call has come.ASSOCHAM is a recent release which prescribed that the Government should coregulate the media with a well defined law as self regulation is not enough in today’s rapid changing situation.It is one form of self regulation.But there is no way to enforce strictly violation of this code.In a country with about 365 news channels,only a dozen are members of The News Broadcasters Association (NBA).The NBA has done some good work.Though most of the channels are not its members.There could be a mechanism that the channel that gets license would be compulsory required to register with NBA.There has to be a greater intent to follow a code of conduct.
                                           For the past several days,media is highlighting the Nupur Talwar’s case and given it a form of daily soap to watch. Almost all the channels are doing this.The self regulatory body should look into these kinds of issues.What concerns the people is the national interest.For eg. If an electronic channel decide to glorify extremist movement in the country then can we permit that in national interest?No,when Anna Hazzare and his associates started a campaign in Delhi,I have heard that prominent people giving a call for revolution and attacking parliament.I don’t know what prompted the media to cover it 24*7?If media expressed the corruption,allegations of corruptions,systematic faults,judiciary faults and other issues noone blames the media but it should be restricted to reasonable restrictions.Recently,for eg,a Karnataka Assembly Committee caught ministers watching pornographic materials and media was blamed for recording the video.Shouldn’t you be focusing on the official assembly proceedings,journalists were asked.On the same hand,Media can be seen protesting the judiciary interfering with their freedom at times and the media is not allowed to do that.
                                           Media is entitled to make their point and there is no doubt on it.On the same feeling,there should be a body to regulate media in national interest and what is in favour of national interest will be decided by the statutory body and the decisssions can be subjected to judiciary scrutiny.We know earlier also how the judiciary has supported the fundamental rights especially freedom.                                           Everyone knows there is a problem in the system and few knows how to correct it.Despite the problem,we admit the system worked well and we have got a great independent judiciary and we can always critise any institution.While criticism is allowed,we should not bring down our institutions easily.My respect to Meenakshi Natarajan for bringing such a bill irrespective of getting it passed or rejected.She is certainly entitled to endorse her views no matter who welcomes it or not.Long Live Meenakshi Natarajan!Long Live Democracy!Jai Hind!

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  1. Most of the views expressed over here holds ground in idealistic situations , unfortunately in the real world any such bill even with best public interest would muzzle the media. There are so many examples of how various politicians or industrialists try to shut media on issues hampering there image , it will just give a tool in there hands to filter all on the air. It don't matter how well woven regulations are made , they will find loop holes to use it in their personal interest . Apart from that ,it dose not matter what is said about the government or politicians , they always manage to make a come back , its not America that one scandal ruins their carrier forever.