Govt to make amendments only after consultation: PM

NEW DELHI: News channels can take a breather with prime minister Manmohan Singh hinting at a broader consultation with all stakeholders before coming out with any amendments that would put curbs on news coverage.

The PM on Wednesday assured editors of news broadcasters that any changes in the act will only be taken up "after the widest possible consultation with all the stakeholders and eliciting their different points of view on the proposed changes."

In a brief statement, the PM office said that the PM has received "several representations from the media agencies regarding certain proposed changes in the Cable Television Network Rules currently under consideration."

Thus, the PM has put the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, which was seen as a gag act on media, on hold for now.

Earlier, the government had been contemplating some changes in the act and the rules under it in view of what it perceives to be the "excessive and exaggerated" coverage of the tragic terrorist attack in Mumbai on 26 November and the "continual" coverage thereon.

The Act now monitors stories on sex, crime, footage of narco-analysis admissions and others.

Editors of news channels have been trying to mobilise political support and have met BJP President Rajnath Singh, LK Advani, and AICC president Sonia Gandhi to express their concerns over the proposed amendments.

Gandhi said that she and the Congress party believed that "the freedom of the press should not be compromised." She further assured that a "middle way" would be found to solve the problem.

Several political leaders such as Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury have extended their support to news broadcasters. Yechury, for instance, said his party had asked the government to form an independent regulatory board for the media industry.

Karat has written a letter to PM saying, "Our Party is of the opinion that there should be no hasty step taken regarding media regulation. Apart from the self-regulatory mechanism put in place by the news channels, it is necessary to have co-regulation through an independent regulatory body. How this is to be done has to be discussed and a common approach arrived at. Till then, no steps should be taken to empower the government and the administration to further regulate the news channels."

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