Stalemate between Govt, broadcasters over content code continues

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New Delhi, Apr 28 (UNI) The stalemate between the government and TV channels over the proposed content code continues with the meeting between the two sides to thrash out a mutually agreed set of guidelines failed to make any progress.

The News Broadcasters Association(NBA) had last week sent its draft content code, whose main thrust was on self-regulation without any government interference, to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting after the Delhi High Court had asked the latter to hear their views.

Some other organisations of broadcasters like IBF and IMG had aready sent their views on the matter.

The broadcasters had strongly resisted the government attempts to bring out a TV channel content code last year. The draft circulated by the Ministry was flately rejected by them saying it would stiffle the growth of media. The greatest opposition was shown to the provision of content auditors in which the final say regarding whether a certain content violated the code was to rest with the government.

In the meanwhile, a PIL for checking obscenity and violence was filed in the Delhi High Court acting on which the court had asked the government to submit an action taken report. The Ministry recently submitted the report in which it presented the content code drafted by a committee of about 30 members taken from various walks of life. It had, however, scrapped the controversial provision of content auditors.

It was at the same hearing that the news broadcasters had submitted their draft content code to the court, which directed the Ministry to hear their views.

An official today said ''if the broadcasters want self-regulation and no government role, there was no point in their coming to the Ministry. They can very well go ahead with their plans.'' After the meeting, a spokesperson of NBA said they discussed the matter with the government in a positive atmosphere.

''Discussions would continue, and there will be another meeting with broadcasters soon,'' she said.

However, she refused to specify the points where the NBA and the Ministry differred.

The draft content code submitted to the court by the NBA envisages a regulatory authority consisting of a chairperson, who would be an eminent jurist and six other members nominated by the Board of NBA by a majority decision.

The Authority would entertain and decide complaints against broadcasters, television journalists and/or news agencies in so far as these relate to the content of any broadcast.

It is to maintain and improve the standards of broadcast, and maintain the independence of broadcasters, television journalists and/or news agencies besides ensuring compliance by broadcasters, television journalists and news agencies with the Code of Conduct and adherence by the said persons to high professional standards; If on receipt of a complaint made to it or otherwise, the Authority has reason to believe that a broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency has violated the Code of Conduct, the Authority may, after giving the broadcaster, television journalist or news agency concerned an opportunity of being heard, hold an inquiry in such manner as is provided by these regulations.

And, if it is satisfied that it was necessary so to do, it may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, warn, admonish, censure, express disapproval against and/or impose a fine upon the broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency and/or recommend to the concerned governmental authority for suspension / revocation of license/accreditation of such broadcaster, television journalist and/or news agency.

Public complaints about objectionable TV programmes can be made directly to the channel concerned and such complaints will be responded in fullness, as per the draft content and self-regulation code brought out by news broadcasters today.

According to sources, the Ministry feels that as far as basic journalistic ethics was concerned, there was no major problem with the NBA draft code, but still there were some areas where there were loopholes which could allow the channels to take unwanted liberties.

''Moreover there was also the problem of implementation of the provisions of self-regulatory mechanism in the total absence of the government,'' an official said.


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