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Amid the Sudarshan TV’s UPSC Jihad debate, know how news channels can be regulated

Know how media especially TV channels can be regulated for good


The Centre told the Supreme Court on September 23 that the hugely controversial programme of Sudarshan News TV channel prima facie violated programme code and a show-case notice has been served to them. The development came after the debate of a controversial programme of Sudarshan TV in which it showed episodes on “Muslims infiltrating” government services.

As per the Information and Broadcasting ministry’s guidelines of Cable Television Network Rules, 1944, no programmes are allowed which contain attacks on religious communities, or which promote communal attitudes, or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups.

The Sudharshan program outraged many civil servants who consider UPSC a very prestigious institution. And the UPSC jihad program wasn’t just vilifying a certain religion, it also put questions on UPSC (Union Public Service Commission). A debate was bound to start, especially at a time when some channels are being criticized for a no-holds-barred coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput case.

There are few channels who are continuously showing mostly the follow up of Sushant’s case and constantly finding new angles to the story. Many important debates have fallen behind.

The Supreme Court came down heavily on Sudarshan TV and underlined the need for laying down clear guidelines and the effective implementation of those guidelines for the media who are endorsing hate speech. In the context of these, there has been a demand for regulating the content of the TV news channels.

News Channels have the power to set a country on fire with their hateful discourse. Some channels have already become famous for it.

The government has earlier tried several times to regulate the media but all such attempts crashed in the wake of public outcry. Regulating the channels by the government would mean that it is interfering in the freedom of speech and expression enshrined in the Indian Constitution in Article 19.

Read more: Journalism in India hitting a new low is not ‘New’

media regulation in india

How Media Channels can be regulated?

There are basically three ways TV channels can be regulated. One is by the government body, second is self-regulation and third is independent regulation.

Government regulation is out of the question as it threatens two things, the freedom of media to show critical content about the government and its policies, and as mentioned earlier,  it will be an attack on freedom of expression. Ultimately, the country government’s regulation of TV channels content can be dangerous for democracy.

Self-regulation is not practical though ideal, but it is not easy to self-regulate the content. In the era of 24*7 hours-media, where being seconds late can cost you a job, it is very difficult to keep a check as every news channel wants to be the first to break a news. Also, there is a TRP war, which has encouraged TV channels to be as dramatic as they can to gain more viewers.

The third and last option is Independent regulation. Now, the question is who will set it up? If the government does it, there will be questions! However, the Supreme Court has a very good chance to set up an independent regulator of media content especially the TV channels.

A fourth model

Incidentally, a fourth model, self-cum independent regulation, has evolved. The NBA (News Broadcasters Association), which was set up in 2008, in turn, set up an NBSA (National Broadcasting Standards Authority). Justice J S Verma, legendary former Chief Justice of India, was appointed as the chairman. He agreed to chair this on the condition that there is no interference in it from the parent body- NBA, which has been always honoured by the Association.

The NBSA consists of four editors from the media field, and four independent members of eminence, apart from the chairman. However, the writ of NBSA extended only to its members. Membership was voluntary so there were few members only. Those who were not happy with the verdict of NBSA could easily walk-out. If the government provides statutory backing to this model by extending its jurisdiction over the non-members too and empower it to take punitive action like cancelling and suspending licenses.

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