Content regulation draft to be redone

NEW DELHI: Unhappy with the draft that has been prepared on content regulation, information and broadcasting secretary SK Arora has asked the panel responsible to rework it.

Though no specific reasons were cited, the ministry is apparently unhappy with the way some of the issues have been dealt with as also the length of the 65-page draft, which is seen as being too unwieldy.

Earlier in the week, Arora, who heads a 30-member committee comprising representatives from industry, trade and consumer bodies, conveyed his observations to a sub-panel handling the content regulation draft.

However, no time frame has been set for the work to be redone, which is an indicator that the government might bring in such a regulation through an existing piece of legislation instead of waiting for the proposed Broadcast Bill 2006 to be enacted into law.

The draft aims at regulating and setting parameters for content to be aired on TV and radio networks, including broadcast of adult fare and sting ops done by news channels.

A peek into a section of this draft also highlights that the proposed legislation could not only hamper functioning of news channels, but is also intrusive.

If okayed by lawmakers in its present state, it could well be the end of sting operations and coverage of issues where high profile politicians and personalities are involved.

Sample this part: TV channels must not use material relating to persons personal or private affairs or which invades an individual's privacy unless there is an identifiable public interest reason for the material to be broadcast.

Who decides what constitutes an individual’s privacy? The government or the regulator, of course.

Examples of public interest would include, according to the draft, revealing or detecting crime, protecting public health or safety, exposing misleading claims made by individuals or organizations or disclosing incompetence that affects the public.

Nowhere does the proposed regulation dwell on misuse of official power by a public personality --- an issue that’s increasingly becoming rampant in India.

The draft then goes on to state that news should not jeopardize any ongoing criminal investigations and (TV channels) should avoid a trial by media since “a man is innocent till proven guilty by law”.

Now this could also mean that if a politician’s son is being tried by law for using drugs in the official residence, TV news should not do extensive coverage of the incident. However, the draft regulation is silent what should be done in case such accused themselves go on air and 'use' the media to influence opinion making.

“Channels mounting sting operations with use of hidden cameras and recording devices are required to strictly adhere to the rules prescribed,” the draft states, going on to put the onus on TV news channels of proving such a programme is in public interest.

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