Self-regulation system of TV channels needs strengthening: Supreme Court

Self-regulation system of TV channels needs strengthening: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court Monday underlined the need to “strengthen” the self-regulation mechanism of television channels. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud verbally observed that the “self-regulatory” framework of television channels needs to be made “effective”.

The bench said that it would issue guidelines in this regard so that television channels comply with the regulations. Speaking for the bench, the CJI verbally told the counsel for News Broadcasters Association (NBA) that unless stringent rules are framed, no TV channel has compulsion to comply with the rules.

The bench also commented that a penalty of ‘1 lakh that can be imposed on an errant TV channel for violation of guidelines has barely any deterrent effect. The penalty was revised in 2008, the bench was informed.

The CJI orally observed that the NBA needs to give “bite” to its regulations to make it more effective. He added that the penalty should be in proportion with the profits earned by the errant channel from the corresponding show. The CJI made it clear that any government interference in this arena would not be appropriate.
The bench lamented that some TV channels go into a “media frenzy” in a high profile case and proceed on “presumption of guilt rather than presumption of innocence” of the individuals allegedly involved in a crime. It added by indulging in such frenzy, the channels end up pre-empting the case’s criminal investigation.The bench clarified that it was not painting all TV channels with the same brush. The CJI said that there are some TV channels which do not exercise restraint. Hence, there is a need to strengthen the self-regulation mechanism.The court also directed senior counsel Arvind Datar, appearing for NBA, to seek suggestions from former SC judges AK Sikri and RV Raveendran on self-regulation of TV channels. The development took place during the resumed hearing of an appeal filed by NBA against a Bombay High Court ruling that contains adverse remarks against NBA for lacking teeth in self-regulation of TV channels. Issuing notice on the petition, the top court asked the central government to also submit its response.

Appearing on behalf of the Centre, solicitor general Tushar Mehta also commented that the penalty of Rs 1 lakh was hardly any deterrence on a TV channel.

“This court has to consider whether steps taken to frame a self-regulatory mechanism needs to be strengthened with regard to framework and final orders to be passed,” the bench ordered.

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