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Press Council chief wants TV to be under its ambit

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NEW DELHI: Justice Markandey Katju, the new chairman of the Press Council of India, has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the electronic media should be brought under the purview of the Council.

Reiterating a demand made over a decade earlier that the Press Council of India should be renamed Media Council of India, he has also sought more penal powers, though, he said these powers would be used sparingly.

He has received a reply from the PMO that the matter is "under consideration", and it is learnt that the letter has been forwarded to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for comment. 

   

      

The former Supreme Court judge has also asked the union government to defer its move to amend the rules relating to renewal of license for TV news channels for violating the Broadcasting Code.

Among other things, he wants powers to stop government advertisements and powers to suspend the licence of a news media for some time if it behaves in an ‘obnoxious‘ manner.

In an informal chat with newspersons, he said he had also met Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj who felt that there could be a "consensus" on the demands.

Asked if this would not mean a threat to the freedom of the media, he said, "Everybody is accountable in a democracy. No freedom is absolute. Every freedom is subject to reasonable restrictions."

He expressed the view that TV debates were frivolous, and there was no discipline among panellists. He candidly said he had a very poor opinion of the media.

But "harsh measures" against the media should be resorted to only in extreme situations.

He wanted the Council to discuss the issue relating to renewal of licences of news channels.

Meanwhile, the the 71-page report of the Press Council Committee of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Sreenivas Reddy on paid news had been uploaded on the website of the PCI following the directions of the Central Information Commission. But the Council had added the disclaimer that it had rejected the report. 

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