Government defers decision on TV channels’ apology

NEW DELHI: The Indian government deferred a decision on cracking the whip on TV channels airing surrogate liquor and tobacco advertisements.

A communiqué from the information and broadcasting ministry to TV channels said that the decision on airing a public apology from 18-21 August has been deferred.
The ministry communication also added that a decision on airing of surrogate ads relating to liquor and tobacco companies would be taken by a “competent authority” at a later date.

The ministry of Information and Broadcasting had earlier this month issued a warning to 43 channels directing them to carry a scroll for three days regretting airing surrogate advertisements of liquor and tobacco products in violation of rules.

The ministry, however, did not elaborate on the competent authority that will decide on such matters or when would such an authority come into existence.

Broadcasting industry sources said that this was an outcome of effective lobbying with the ministry.

On Monday, broadcast industry representatives met up with I&B minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi and ministry’s secretary SK Arora to discuss various aspects of a proposed broadcast legislation, a draft of which has been dubbed “draconian” by stakeholders.

One of the issues discussed that day was airing of an apology by 'errant’ TV channels, which was described as public humiliation.

Interestingly, when confronted with the apology issue, Dasmunsi had told some of the media companies’ representatives that he wasn’t aware of such a diktat.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) had also written to the ministry expressing member-TV channels’ reservations on the issue of scrolling an apology.

The scroll that was to be aired 24-hours for three days read thus: “Ministry of information & broadcasting issues a warning to X (name) channel for telecasting surrogate advertisements of liquor/tobacco products in violation of advertising code. X (name) channel regrets this and apologies for the same. We assure to be more careful in future.”

Meanwhile, a government-industry meeting on coverage of terrorism and related issues by TV news channels, slated to be held 18 August, was postponed.

No further date has been intimated to TV channels presently.

The meeting, called in the aftermath of bomb blasts in Mumbai recently, was to deliberate on the modalities of coverage of terrorism-related events.

At least two Indian news channels had been issued show-cause notices by the I&B ministry for airing programmes, which have been “objected” to by security forces and the home ministry.

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