COURT TELLS GOVT TO CENSOR CHANNELS
The Delhi High Court Has Asked The Govt. To Censor TV Channels.
Broadcasters are required to ensure that their programmes follow the code of conduct and content as outlined in the Cable Act.
In their desperate rush to grab eyeballs and stand out from the plethora of competitors, TV channels often sensationalise their programmes, crossing the limits of decency.
The I&B ministry has often hauled up channels for indecent or inappropriate content. The offending channels have often been instructed to scroll apologies on their TV screen for inappropriate content.
The I&B ministry also provides for severe fines and even refusal to renew licenses for repeated offenders. Clearly broadcasters are concerned and to protect their own turf. The Indian Broadcasting Federation - IBF (an organization of TV broadcasters) has constituted the Broadcasting Consumers Complaint Committee (BCCC) as its own self regulating body that will address consumer complaints and pull up erring broadcasters.
Clearly the aim of the IBF & BCCC is to avoid strict intervention by the government and instead leniently sensor offending TV channels.
The extent of the BCCC's leniency can be gauged by the comment from Shabana Azmi - Member BCCC Board, quoted in the press "We act upon only 20% of valid complaints. We give them 3 warnings, but if they don't comply, we ask them to pay a fine. We haven't yet decided on the amount of fine."
A Public Interest Litigation was filed against the 'Emotional Atyachar' show on the UTV Bindaas TV channel, in 2010.
SELF REGULATION REJECTED
Responding to the PIL, the Delhi High Court bench led by Justice Pradeep Nandrajog rejected the idea of self-regulation by the broadcasters. The Court has asked the union government to constitute a statutory regulatory body for the electronic media.
Noting that freedom of expression was not an absolute right, the bench said any reasonable restrictions could be imposed only by legislation.
The Court in its judgment ruled that state intervention is necessary to promote the media environment that is characterised by pluralism and diversity. The Court added that a regulatory body was required for ensuring compliance of the provisions mentioned under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 and the Cable Television Network Rules 1994 by the media organisations.
"To guarantee pluralism and diversity of opinion requires provisions for public broadcasting, commercial broadcast and print media and community-based broadcast. To ensure media pluralism may require the application of competition law by the State to prevent monopoly of forms of communications, airwaves etc.," the bench said.
The Delhi High Court has recommended setting up a statutory regulatory body that would comprise of men and women of eminence from field of law, science, art and culture, literature, history and social sciences.
Security of tenure needs to be brought into practice for the members of the regulatory body to ensure non-interference from the government, the court added.
BCCC TO STAND IN
The court also directed that the BCCC to look into the complaints of violation of programme and advertising codes and other provisions by the media and give its rulings, until the Government sets up a statutory body.
The court also ruled that the decisions of the BCCC shall be treated as the foundation stone for taking appropriate action against the offenders. It also asked the BCCC to decide the complaints of "vulgarity" and "obscenity" against the reality show 'Emotional Atyachar', and the Centre would enforce the decision.
The Delhi High Court order is a landmark decision, that forces the I&B ministry to set up a government body that will censor TV channels.
So far, TV channels have tried to avoid direct government censorship and the I&B ministry had so far indulged TV broadcasters.
The court has not set any time limit for setting up a TV censorship panel and it remains to be seen whether it will be implemented during the tenure of the existing government. n