The Supreme Court Friday issued notice to the central government, the Election Commission, and Press Council of India on a PIL seeking framing of guidelines and setting up an independent body for regulating electronic media that has a wide reach and influence on the masses. A bench of Chief Justice P.Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi also issued notice to News Broadcasters Association, Indian Broadcasting Association and the Advertising Standards Council of India on the PIL petition by NGO Hindu Janjagruti Samiti. The PIL urged the court to issue direction for the “framing and/or issuing guidelines in the matter of regulation of TV channels in India after considering the suggestions made in the petition and after hearing such persons and bodies as deemed necessarily -till the legislature enacts a law”.
“The influence this broadcasting media holds on the general public is unfortunately being misused by these channels. The instances of such misuses are ‘paid news’ or the uncontrolled ownership turning into cross media ownership,” the PIL said. “There are many such instances of cross media ownership. This kind of cross ownership tends to create ‘private treaties’ between the media houses and the business houses or the politicians which again exposes the general public to ‘paid news’,” the PIL contended.
Referring to the spread and reach of the electronic media, the PIL said: “The television channels have a wide reach and influence on masses and play a vital role in the country’s political, economic, social and cultural set up and are considered as an important vehicle of communication to carry information to the people.” It noted that there were as many as 850 TV channels as on Dec 31, 2012 out of which 413 were under news and current affairs category and 437 under non-news category. In addition, state-run Doordarshan runs 37 channels. It cited Press Council Chief Justice Markanday Katju and the Prasar Bharti in 2009 who had noted the shortcomings of self-regulation by the private electronic media.