Government mulling media commission

February 15th, 2009 - 6:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) With the proliferation of new and emerging media like Internet, Internet TV and FM radio, the government is seriously considering a proposal to set up a commission to frame comprehensive guidelines to cover all media.

The charges of irresponsible reporting by some TV news channels following the Mumbai attacks in November last year has stirred the government into taking a fresh look at emerging media and ways to regulate them.

The proposal for setting up a media commission on the lines of earlier such exercises initiated by former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Morarji Desai was discussed at a recent meeting of consultative committee meeting of parliamentarians.

The meeting was chaired by Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Anand Sharma.

The minister assured that he will take it up before the cabinet and discuss it with the prime minister, Hannan Mollah, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) MP and a member of the committee, told IANS Sunday.

“The last two media commissions were set up primarily with the print media in mind. In the last two decades, the media has grown a hundred times and new forms have emerged that require regulation,” Mollah said. “It will be unfair to just focus on TV news channels. The media landscape is more diverse now,” he stressed.

“A proper media commission with a wider term of reference should be set up to deal with diversified media. Other members also agreed with the proposal in view of new security issues and terrorist threats,” Mollah said.

Other members of the consultative committee of MPs who attended the meeting Feb 9 included Kirip Chaliha, S. Mallikarjunaiah, Bharatkumar Raut, Ahmed Saeed Malihabadi and Dr V Maitreyan.

The United Progressive Alliance government may initiate the move to set up a media commission, but with the elections barely two months away the proposal may have to wait for a new government to give it form and implement it.

The previous National Democratic Alliance government, too, tried to set up a media commission, but could not succeed due to the lack of an agreement with other political parties.

The proposal to cover all media comes even as the government is grappling with issues relating to regulating TV news channels in the wake of the coverage of the Mumbai attacks, which were decried by many as a threat to national security.

The government’s attempt to impose guidelines, that included using only the approved footage of incidents like the Mumbai terrorist attacks, triggered protests from leading broadcasters who saw it as a gag order. Finally, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to assure broadcasters that no such guidelines will be imposed without the widest possible consultation with all stakeholders.

A few days ago, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) unveiled a set of self-regulatory guidelines that included norms for sting operations. But the government is not convinced that self-regulation in the age of cut-throat competition driven by the race for TRP will work.

The government is also considering setting up a standing media consultative committee, to be chaired by secretary in the ministry of information and broadcasting, officials and leading representatives of the media industry, to look into issues relating to regulation.

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