Mediaah! Katju ko bolo katli maaro, says NBA

04 Nov,2011

Pradyuman MaheshwariPardon the forced usage of Bambaiyya, but with a name like Katju and this being the season for mithai, one couldn’t help the play on Kaaju Katli. With apologies to the lovers of the Kaaju Katli. I am not too concerned about how Mr K reacts… in any case he finds journalists irresponsible and unintelligent.

There’s been a lot of song and dance about the Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju’s outbursts to all and sundry. Yesterday, the News Broadcasters Association asked the Prime Minister to ask the Press Council of India to mind his own business and stop effing around with the news TV wallahs.

The Prime Minister is in Cannes attending the G20 summit and I won’t be surprised if he does precious little about it.

There have been various reports on the News Broadcasters Association asking the Prime Minister to restrain the Press Council of India chairman to not comment on areas that are beyond his jurisdiction. I found the one on former friend and benefactor Anil Wanvari’s Indiantelevision.com the most exhaustive. Here goes: http://www.indiantelevision.com/headlines/y2k11/nov/nov28.php

But before you slam the man any further, as our editor-at-large Anil Thakraney writes, there is a point that Katju is making. There are scores of occasions when you do have our news channels transgressing all lines of decency. I have stopped some of the channels – especially a few in Hindi – because of the trashy content that’s there on them. Even on Big News Days, these guys don’t seem to get over their obsession with the Occult. And the Inane.

Former Aaj Tak CEO and also bossman of a dozen industry associations G Krishnan would often argue for the trade about this with a “We are like this only refrain”.  Whoever says news has to be only current affairs. And whoever said current affairs shouldn’t include who Ranbir Kapoor was in bed with last night.

(aside, these days channels could also do similar stories about mediapersons, but we’ll come to that some other time… or perhaps will never do it.!)

(aside 2: the last time, Mediaah! tried to write on the private life of a mediaperson, we had to kill ourselves).

I am not armed with the stats, but the fact of the matter is that all news broadcasters aren’t members of the NBA. And it’s impossible for the NBA to coerce channels to turn members. There’s nothing out of the ordinary about this. In other trade associations too, large players don’t become members.

So, as the NBA has said, let its self-regulation policies rule over all news channels. In fact the uplinking and downlinking policies must make it mandatory for all news channels broadcasting out of India to subscribe to a self-regulation code of the NBA.

 

Should the Press Council be made the Media Council?

 

First, do we need a Press Council. The newspaperwallahs have their INS, the magazine guys have an AIM, internet and mobile dudes have IAMAI, the ad folk have their AAAI and ASCI, so why the Press Council.

It’s a body with no teeth. It can’t do a thing to police newspapers. I remember receiving a few letters from the Council in the ‘90s asking my paper to apologise for some flimsy reason. I was advised by my publisher to ignore the notice, and when one realised there was no need for the paper to issue an apology, I trashed the missive. It’s not that the newspaper lost its licence or was penalised. We went about our business peacefully only to trash the next letter that came in.

I am a little surprised that the Press Council didn’t have news channels under its jurisdiction all these years. When it was set up in 1966 (with the Press Council Act taking coming into existence only in 1978), we only had the government-owned Doordarshan and All India Radio so I guess no one found the need for policing the airwaves.

Para 1 of the ‘about us’ section of its site says:

The Press Council of India was first set up in the year 1966 by the Parliament on the recommendations of the First Press Commission with the object of preserving the freedom of the press and of maintaining and improving the standards of press in India. The present Council functions under the Press Council Act 1978. It is a statutory, quasi judicial body which acts as a watchdog of the press. It adjudicates the complaints against and by the press for violation of ethics and for violation of the freedom of the press respectively.

There is a self-regulator for news and non-news television and advertising and there is none for print and digital media. So I guess there is merit for a self-regulator, but ideally it should be done by an industry body and not someone set up by the government. As for ensuring the freedom of the press, we surely don’t need a Press Council of India to police that.

Our democratic set-up will ensure that governments can’t get away with stifling the press. As for media owners muzzling their own employees, I don’t think the Press Council or any minister or Parliamentarian can do anything about it. The owners almost always have the final say.

 

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