SC notice on plea for independent authority for broadcasting media

New Delhi, Jan 2: The Supreme Court Thursday issued notice to the central government on a plea by a society, MediaWatch India, seeking setting up of an independent regulatory authority to oversee all aspects of broadcasting media including the contents of their programmes.

A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi issued notice on the PIL after counsel Kamini Jaiswal, besides seeking an independent regulatory authority, also pleaded for putting in place a “credible and systematic grievance redressal mechanism for television and radio audience till the suitable legislation was enacted”.

The PIL has also sought direction to the government to submit a monthly status report on the steps taken by it for establishing an independent regulatory authority to regulate the broadcast and visual media including the contents of their broadcasts.

Besides the central government, the court has issued notice to the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, News Broadcasters Association, Association of Radio Operators for India, and Advertising Standards Council of India.

While issuing notice, the court tagged the PIL with an earlier pending plea by NGO Common Cause seeking the establishment of regulatory mechanism.

The PIL moved by MediaWatch-India vice-president Edara Gopi Chand claimed that for last many years, the central government was repeatedly misleading the court by stating that it was working on the broadcast bill.

On the contrary, the PIL said that the annual report for year 2011-12 and Strategic Plan for 2011-17 of the ministry of information and broadcasting clearly says that the government had completely shelved the efforts towards enacting broadcast bill.

The ministry had “done nothing about this key reform in the last six years”, the PIL said, terming the “so-called self-regulation by media organizations’ own regulatory bodies nothing but a hopeless farce”.

The PIL noted that only about 300 out of total 800 plus channels have associated themselves with Indian Broadcasting Foundation, and News Broadcasters Association which, it said, clearly showed that majority of TV broadcasters have chosen to stay out of self-regulatory net and were not inclined to submit to any kind of self-regulation.

Even to this date, the PIL told the court that Association of Radio Operators for India has not come up with any self-regulation mechanism to oversee the content of programmes aired on private FM radio channels.

The penalties are hardly deterrent and rarely imposed by the self-regulatory bodies and when such penalties are imposed in in rarest of rare cases, the erring channels walked away from the self regulatory bodies demonstrating that the very members have scant respect for their own self-regulatory mechanism, it said.

IANS