ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Turning the Spotlight on the Media

The media does need to look at its nexus with business interests; injured innocence will not do.

Recent remarks by the new chair of the Press Council of India, Justice (retired) M Katju, have sparked off something of a debate in the media. Katju’s comments on the intellectual capabilities of journalists and his low opinion of their abilities have predictably led to indignant protestations by media bodies. But regardless of the sweeping generalisation of Katju’s remarks, this is an issue that the media needs to introspect about as standards of reporting have declined noticeably. More relevant is the issue of media ethics, the lack of which was exposed by a report from the very Press Council that Katju now heads. The paid news saga that was exposed after the 2009 elections might today seem an old story. But its import remains relevant. And barring a couple of news organisations, no one has attempted to draw up stricter codes of ethics for journalists to abide by.

Katju’s suggestion about bringing the electronic media within the purview of the Press Council and renaming it as the Media Council is the issue that requires greater debate. Regulating the growing, and increasingly powerful, electronic media has been on the government’s agenda for more than a few years. It began in 2008, when the Supreme Court urged the centre to lay down guidelines for the print and electronic media on covering criminal cases under investigation. This was prompted by a public interest litigation (PIL) on the television coverage of the Arushi murder case where one witnessed a virtual trial by the media. Later in the same year, television’s non-stop coverage of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack came in for a lot of criticism, especially when it became evident that it actually aided those managing the terror attacks from Pakistan. In response, the government amended the Cable Network Regulation Act to “regulate” crisis coverage. But when industry bodies protested, the prime minister intervened and put the amendment on hold.

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