NBA submits content code to MIB, keeps redressal under own "Authority"

NEW DELHI: The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) today sent to the MIB a set of two documents, a Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and a proposed redressal mechanism regulation, under which will be set up an Authority by NBA itself.

The Disputes Redressal Authority will have an eminent jurist as the chairperson and six other members nominated by the NBA board by a majority decision, with three editors from broadcasters, and three other experts from various fields.

The Authority would be set up under a proposed "News Broadcasting Standards (Disputes Redressal) Regulations."

The Authority keeps for itself the right to censure, warn, propose to the government punitive actions, including cancellation of licenses, or impose fines up to Rs 100,000 on any broadcaster, as it may deem fit by a majority decision, if a complaint is upheld by it.

However, the Association has made one key exception in those falling under the Authority: in defining a "broadcaster", it keeps out of the purview of the word any person or organisation who / which is not a member of the NBA, or a channel that runs news as a part of its overall programming and is not a 24 / 7 news channel.

People can complain to the Authority, provided they put in Rs 1,000 as fee per complaint, and also stand a chance of being imposed a cost of Rs 10,000, in his favour or against him, the latter normally done by a judicial or quasi judicial body if a complaint is found to be of malafide intention.

However, the Authority will be above any complaint, as an important clause under the proposed regulation says: "No suit or other legal proceeding shall lie against the Authority, the Chairperson or any Member/s thereof or any person acting under the direction of the Authority in respect of anything which is done or intended to done in good faith under these Regulations."

The basic Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards has more or less echoed the issues that the government's Code, now lying with the Delhi High Court, has raised: no overt violence, no crime against women or children, nothing that fuels communal passions or hurts national security concerns, etc.

However, there is nothing on one of the government's key concerns: repeated use of short footage over and over again in the same news clip, which most news broadcasters feel is needed to capture eyeballs.

Like the government's code, the NBA code too stresses on accuracy, not speed, protection of privacy, equality (though like the government code it says it is impossible to give absolutely equal time to all parties) and other essential hallmarks of quality journalism.

One the issue of accuracy, NBA strongly says: "Accuracy is at the heart of the news television business. Viewers of 24-hour news channels expect speed, but it is the responsibility of TV news channels to keep accuracy, and balance, as precedence over speed."

On the issue of stings, the NBA code says: "As a guiding principle, sting and under cover operations should be a last resort of news channels in an attempt to give the viewer comprehensive coverage of any news story.

"News channels will not allow sex and sleaze as a means to carry out sting operations, the use of narcotics and psychotropic substances or any act of violence, intimidation, or discrimination as a justifiable means in the recording of any sting operation."

These issues are a part of the licensing rules of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, and these were really not the bone of contention between the NBA and the government.

The real issue has been who will run the redrressal mechanism and control the media, on which issue the NBA says that it will be a self-regulatory system with a jury of peers, as is the case in most countries where television news journalism had matured much before it arrived in India.

The NBA's logic is clear, as it sets that out in the preamble: "A media that is meant to expose the lapses in government and in public life cannot obviously be regulated by government - it would lack credibility."

The NBA says: "There are undoubtedly limitations in any model of self governance in which compliance is entirely voluntary. However this does not suggest that such models are ineffective."

It adds: "A censure emanating from a jury of its peers would indisputably affect the credibility of a channel. Besides, such a process is not without its legal ramifications."

So far as the redressal mechanism is concerned, which was the hot debate, NBA says that the Authority will be set up through an electoral process from within itself, and the chairperson will be an eminent jurist.

The six members with the chairperson would meet at least once in two months.

The NBA's proposed regulation says that written complaints would be heard and disposed off within six months.

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