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Government considering strengthening code of conduct for broadcast news, says Javadekar


NEW DELHI: The government is looking at proposals to strengthen the existing regulatory mechanisms for the news media, and also considering a new code of conduct for television, information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar said on Monday.

The minister was speaking at a webinar organised by the Press Council of India on the National Press Day. He said while different regulatory systems were available for print and television news, the need for such a system existed for the online platforms.

A free press is the cornerstone of democracy and “freedom comes with responsibility,” he said, asking news organisations to avoid sensationalism.

The minister specifically raised the issue of the alleged television rating points (TRP) manipulation by some news channels, and said a committee formed by his ministry would soon submit its report on it.

A four-member committee was set up on November 4 to look into the existing TRP model. It is headed by Prasar Bharati chief executive Shashi Shekhar Vempati.

“Freedom of the press is being discussed again today, and the way press freedom is being attacked, is not good”

— Prakash Javadekar, I&B Minister

Javadekar spoke on the absence of a regulatory body for TV channels and said a decision might be taken on bringing a code of conduct. The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) is a body of advertisers, advertising agencies and broadcasters, he said. “The government deliberately never interfered with it, because if the advertiser and broadcaster are on the same page, then why should we come in between,” he said.

The Press Council of India is another mechanism of self-regulation, he said. “Though the head is appointed by the government, it has representatives of press owners, editors, journalists, photographers and parliamentarians. But people are demanding that the Press Council be given more powers. That is being considered.”

With regard to TV, he said, “There is one institution, and anyone can complain to them and they even punish the erring channels”. The National Broadcasting Standards Authority is the self-regulatory body for TV news channels. “But there are many channels that are not even members,” Javadekar said. “They have no restrictions”.

“Such a system cannot exist. People are suggesting that we should also come up with a code of conduct which is common for all channels. We have not taken a decision, but we are considering it as well,” he said. Javadekar said there was neither a Press Council like system, nor self-regulation for online platforms. He said that while there was some very good content on some of these platforms, there were “some bad and some very bad” films and shows, too.

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