Tag Archives: India

I&B Issues Directive to TV Channels for Protection of Identity of Children in Need of Care and Protection and Juveniles in Conflict with Law

10 Aug

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting today issued a directive to all TV Channels regarding Protection of Identity of Children in need of Care and Protection and Juveniles in Conflict with Law’.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March, 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, with the mandate to ensure that all laws, policies, programmes, and administrative mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Any person contravening these: provisions is also “liable to penalties, as prescribed under the provisions of Section 21 (2) of the said Act.

On the subject matter, the Commission has recommended that necessary directives/set of protocols be issued to the entire print and electronic media to refrain from publishing the names, pictures, home address, school address and other parameters of their identity of such children who need to be reported upon by media on account of certain circumstances including difficult circumstances. As such disclosures only tend to leave their imprint and affect the social and mental health of children in their crucial stage of development.

All News & Current Affairs TV channels are required to abide by the provisions contained in the Cable Television Networks Rules 1994 and Rule 6(1)(l) thereof provides that no programme should be carried in the cable service which denigrates children. Thus by virtue of this provision the channels are already required to carry the programmes involving children with due care, maturity and sensitivity.

Accordingly, all News and Current Affairs TV channels are hereby requested to ensure compliance of the aforesaid directives of NCPCR as also the provisions of the Cable Television Networks Rules 1994 while telecasting any content involving children. Any violation may entail stringent action as per the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, rules promulgated thereunder and the terms and conditions of uplinking and downlinking guidelines.

Media Guidelines


‘No point in sensationalising’

10 Mar


Crime PatrolDastak, that airs twice a week in a late night slot, has not only completed over 52 weeks in the top 10 chart, but has also become the No 1 show this week. According to the ratings issued by TAM India, the official record keeper for TV viewing in the country, the two-part  episode aired on last Friday and Saturday on Sony Entertainment, showcasing the recent ‘Baby Falak’ case in Delhi and the associated human trafficking issue, scored 6.8 points, leaving popular dailies behind.

Host Anoop Soni gives credit to the show’s director Subramaniam and to the creative and research team that consciously cut down the graphic representation of crimes. “The ratings are overwhelming. But they also point out that we have an ever-increasing audience base, and have to be more cautious about the way we discuss a case study,” he says, adding, “There’s no point in sensationalising. The idea is to narrate a story in a humane manner and understand what leads to a particular crime and how it could have been averted.”

Anoop, who only shoots anchor links for the show, prefers to read the entire screenplay to connect with a story. He also reads newspapers and magazines thoroughly and passes on cases to the show’s two-member research team for consideration. “We can’t end crimes, but circumstances that lead to punishable offences can be changed,” says the actor-anchor, who remembers receiving great feedback for a series on female foeticide cases in India.   “There are thousands of cases we’d like to highlight alongside the role that cops play in cracking them. And trust me, there’s a large chunk of the audience that’s not tuning in for voyeuristic pleasure.”

Crime Patrol’s first season aired from May 2003 to March 2006, followed by season two that ran from January 2010 to June 2010. The third season started in September 2010 and ended in December 2010. The current season flagged off on April 29, 2011. Director Subramaniam, the brain and creative force behind the show, doesn’t know if this season will ever end.

“We’re trying to keep the show newsy. At the same time, we’re trying to keep the grossness levels low because we don’t want to show gruesome crimes too graphically,” he reasons. “We had thought we’d get a little break between these cases. But the good feedback won’t let us do that anytime soon.”


Media and key issues raised by Markandey Katju

28 Nov


Markandey Katju‘s forthright comments on the state of the Indian news media and the intellectual competence of many journalists have certainly raised many hackles. One does not have to agree with everything the chairman of the Press Council of India diagnoses or prescribes to see that his observations have hit home. Nor are his concerns confined to how and in what respects journalism and many journalists go astray and let the people of India down.

It’s not yet a month since the retired Supreme Court judge was appointed PCI chairman. He has already made it plain that he will speak up, and act to the maximum extent the PCI’s statutory powers allow him to act, every time the freedom of the press comes under pressure and each time journalists are targeted by the state.

This is in keeping with the twin objects of the PCI: “to preserve the freedom of the Press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India.” For example, Mr. Katju has criticised as “grossly disproportionate” the award of Rs. 100 crore in damages in a civil defamation suit against Times Now and as “incorrect” the subsequent orders of the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court on the matter. He has pulled up government departments and statutory bodies for delaying payment of advertising bills for years on end and asked all government departments to clear the bills within one month of the publication of advertisements, failing which they should pay 12 per cent interest on top of the amounts billed. In the latest instance, he has taken up with the Government of Jammu & Kashmir the issue of journalists being roughed up by the Central Reserve Police Force while covering protests in Srinagar.

It is clear that Mr. Katju’s critical observations on the performance of the news media, and especially television channels, have found resonance with the reading and viewing public. He has also found support within the establishment.

Inaugurating the National Press Day celebrations on November 16, Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari observed that in an environment marked by “the extremely buoyant growth rates” of the media and “minimal or no regulation” the focus had shifted to self-regulation, individual or collective. But “collective self-regulation…has yet to succeed in substantive measure because it is neither universal nor enforceable” and “individual self-regulation has also failed due to personal predilection and the prevailing personal interest over public interest.” Mr. Ansari wanted the ongoing national debate on the subject to lead to the publication of a White Paper, leading to “further consultations and evolution of a broad national consensus so that appropriate frameworks can be put in place combining voluntary initiative, executive regulation and legislative action, as appropriate.” He noted with concern the absence of media watch groups.

Several senior journalists who participated in a panel discussion on the occasion agreed that self-regulation was either non-existent or had failed. They felt the time had come to give the statutory watchdog, the PCI, more teeth, such as the power to levy fines, provided the threshold of prima facie evidence was raised high so that frivolous complaints would not be entertained. The other issue raised by Mr. Katju is the strange situation of the broadcast media in India having no regulatory framework. He has revealed that he has written to the Prime Minister asking for the broadcast media to be brought under the aegis of the “Press Council,” which could be renamed the “Media Council.”

Responding to the fierce objections expressed by the private TV channels and the News Broadcasters Association, he has asked them whether they wanted to come under an authority like the Lokpal — if they rejected the idea of coming under a statutory Media Council headed by him. The number of satellite television channels is in the region of 600; of this number, more than 100 are categorised as news channels. Justice Katju’s concern that influential sections of the media, especially the television channels, often trivialise the news and divert the people’s attention from vital socio-economic issues is genuine. As a judge of the highest court of the land, Mr. Katju was known for his libertarian views and delivered many pro-poor judgments. His credentials are strong when it comes to criticising the media for working against the interests of the deprived and the poor, for dividing them on caste and communal lines, and for promoting superstition and obscurantism instead of scientific and rational ideas.

Interestingly, a parallel discussion on the ways of the press and the issue of self-regulation versus statutory regulation is taking place in the United Kingdom. In his deeply insightful George Orwell Lecture, “Hacking away at the truth,” given recently at University College, London (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/nov/10/phone-hacking-truth-alan-rusbridger-orwell), Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger discusses several aspects of media-related issues, including media freedom, performance, the public interest, rogue practices, regulatory issues, media monopoly and domination by the Murdoch empire, and the need to guarantee plurality and a level playing field. Much of this discussion is relevant to India. Among other things, Mr. Rusbridger discusses the functioning of an independent and full-time internal news ombudsman, known as the Readers’ Editor in The Guardian (The Hindu has adopted the Guardian model) as “the most local form of regulation” that has proved effective.

With deep insight and rare candour, Mr. Rusbridger discusses the lessons to be learned from the phone hacking scandal and what the press could expect from the comprehensive Leveson Inquiry instituted by the government: “Well, talking of rules and codes, we discovered that the thing that we call ‘ self-regulation’ in the press is no such thing. Whatever the original laudable ambitions for, and achievements of, the Press Complaints Commission, the fact remained that it had no investigatory powers and no sanctions…it was simply not up to the task of finding out what was going on in the newsrooms it was supposed to be regulating. The PCC was lied to by News International.” It then committed “the folly of writing a worse-than-meaningless report which, as we wrote at the time, would fatally undermine the cause of self-regulation as represented by the PCC. In the absence of anything that looked to the outside world like regulation, the rogue actions of, I hope, a few journalists, have landed the press as a whole with a series of inquiries which will last not months, but years, and which will, I suspect, be quite uncomfortable for all involved.”

The uncomfortable exercise cannot be dodged and The Guardian‘s Editor proposes a positive way of looking at it: “it provides an opportunity for the industry to have a conversation with itself while also benefitting from the perspective and advice of others.” Perhaps the time has come for a comparable exercise addressing the specific Indian media situation, the challenges as well as opportunities.




Media can play a role in educating poor on their rights

19 Sep


Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare is back in the news after hardly a week of post-fast recuperation at his Ralegan Siddhi abode. He has held a two-day meeting with core members of Team Anna and reportedly given 17 interviews to TV channels in 11 hours. However, the news from New Delhi does not appear encouraging in respect of the promised passage of the Lokpal Bill in the winter session of Parliament, at least not in the way Team Anna would want to have it.

The mass movement against corruption may need to cross many more hurdles before achieving the aim of having a strong and effective Lokpal in place. For instance, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), after a critical study of the government’s Lokpal Bill and Team Anna’s Jan Lokpal Bill, has claimed that both the Bills were “unworkable.” Presenting the agency’s views on the two bills to the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Law, Justice and Personnel recently, CBI Director A.P. Singh pleaded that the CBI should be retained as the premier investigating agency for corruption cases, in accordance with a Supreme Court judgment to that effect. The underlying principle behind the bills is to give more autonomy to the investigating agency in order to shield it from political interference. The CBI chief was also critical of any provision that would confer police powers on the Lokpal to empower it to supervise the anti-corruption wing and contended that such a move might result in a breach in the doctrine of separation of powers. The investigating agency also feared that some provisions of the bill might cause conflicts of jurisdiction and erosion of credibility of both the organisations. (The Hindu, September 15, 2011.) The issues raised by the CBI will no doubt be addressed before finalising the legislation.

More anti-corruption laws

The same day Union Ministers Salman Khursheed and V. Narayanasamy, members of the Group of Ministers on the media, unveiled the government’s plans to bring in more anti-corruption laws. These would deal with electoral reform, public procurement policy, public disclosure, accountability of judges, and service delivery to citizens (citizen’s charters). These laws would be in addition to the proposed law on the Lokpal. Another task before the Centre is to expedite disposal of about 10,000 corruption-related cases pending action for decades through fast-track courts and other measures. The government, the Ministers revealed, would soon form a committee headed by a Supreme Court judge to study cases that were pending trial for more than 10 years and arrange for speedy trials.

Media have a major role

Although a sort of grievance redressal system has been introduced at the Central and State levels in the last decade, most of them have remained on paper; and where they function, awareness among people about the functioning of the system is poor, according to studies. Besides, the officials in charge of the system ought to take greater interest in connecting ordinary people to the government. What also emerges from the studies is that a large number of officials do not specify the timeframe within which complaining citizens can expect redress. Here is an area where the news media can make a real difference: they can raise public awareness about the grievance redressal system, play an educative role on citizens’ rights and entitlements, and also independently monitor the working of the system. There is great scope for insightful reporting and investigative journalism here.

A mixed response

The last column (“Print media do better than TV: coverage of Hazare fast,” September 5, 2011) has, by and large, received a good response from the readers.

Here are some excerpts:

M.K. Bajaj (Zirakpur) regretted in his e-mail that the news channels competed with each other to ridicule and humiliate the democratically elected government of the day. Even parliamentarians and politicians of all hues were not spared. However, he had a word of appreciation for The Hindu for its balanced coverage. S.V. Venugopalan (Chennai) felt the splendid range of cartoons by Keshav and Surendra deserved special mention in the column. Anoop S. (Thodupuzha) appreciated all the editorials on the subject in The Hindu for their “clarity and objectivity.” Akash Goyal (Yamuna Nagar) noted, in his brief mail, that the column had ignored “hours and hours” of debates provided by the news channels. C.G. Rishikesh (online) observed that the review “sadly” confined itself to “summarizing the editorials and articles,” already read by readers. If the heading had been ‘Coverage of Hazare fast by The Hindu,’ that would have been nearer the truth, he commented.

Interestingly, the fight against corruption in India led by Anna Hazare received wide media coverage in the United States and Germany. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and several other newspapers published reports and articles. Kurt Waschnig from Oldenburg, Germany in his response to the The Hindu (online) noted that German newspapers, including Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Frankfurter Rundschau, reported regularly on Anna Hazare’s fast and his determination to curb corruption in India. “The coverage of Anna Hazare’s movement in German newspapers was balanced and insightful,” Mr. Waschnig remarked, adding that The Hindu‘s editorials and articles showed that the newspaper as a national institution supported Anna in his legal and peaceful fight against corruption.



The cosy world behind the tapes

9 Dec
Barkha Dutt - Inclusive Growth - World Economi...

Image by World Economic Forum via Flickr

Vidya Subrahmaniam in THE HINDU

The public face of the journalist is of a brave, feisty adversary tothe rapacious establishment, not the party animal who will wilt before the charms of the corporate lobbyist

To succeed, a politician has to keep his ear to the ground. Yet success can be cruelly destructive; it is so deceptively flattering that it eventually insulates him from the very thing that has made him a success: public opinion. For the politician, fed on heady tales of his invincibility and listening only to courtiers and attendants, the moment of discovery can be shattering.

The Niira Radia tapes have come as a similar, awakening moment for journalists. At one level, the tapes are about a nation in deep crisis, with a corporate lobbyist shown as being able effortlessly to penetrate and influence decision-making at multiple levels. If this is a mere teaser-trailer, as reports of 5000 more tapes suggest, what more damning, frightening things are we going to learn?

At another level, l`affaire Radia is a stunning indictment of the media, or at least sections of it. Indeed, for journalists caught on the tape, and tried by members of their own tribe for the lapse, the troubling question is about their credibility. Did they go too far in placing themselves at the disposal of Ms Radia knowing she was a lobbyist for two powerful corporate groups, the Tatas and Mukesh Ambani? Forget the people at large, why did their explanations not carry conviction with the rest of the media? And more critically, did stardom and public adulation cause them to lose their way so badly that they could not judge between right and wrong?

That illusions of grandeur and infallibility can affect journalists in exactly the same way they do politicians and film stars has been evident in the discussions held so far. Barkha Dutt chose to face a firing squad of senior media professionals on her role in the Radia tapes and yet missed the opportunity to show remorse and recover the fund of goodwill that had made her an icon. Her point: She would not apologise for a wrong she had not committed and it was entirely valid to talk to a corporate lobbyist and trade information for information. Ms Dutt threw counter questions at her interrogators, suggesting at times that they did not know the first thing about modern-day journalism.

The verdict was that Ms Dutt did herself no favour by acting so self-important. There were the inevitable comparisons between TV journalists and the politicians they attacked; it seemed that both could be brought down by hubris. Also revealed last week was the yawning gap between rank and file journalism and club class journalism, placed on opposite ends during a discussion on media ethics held at the lawns of the Delhi Press Club. Editor-in-Chief of CNN-IBN Rajdeep Sardesai, who was among the panellists, wrongly assumed that he was lecturing to a captive audience. Pitching in strongly for the dramatis personae on the Radia tapes, he argued that sourcing stories from lobbyists, even if not desirable, had become a requirement of fast moving journalism. It was excessive and unacceptable therefore to treat this as a serious misconduct. And then, Mr. Sardesai made a fatal error: He said he detected professional envy in the orchestrated outrage against Ms Dutt.

This was more than what the assembly of journalists could take. They were being portrayed as dull, and plodding in comparison to the savvy new media. The floodgates opened and for the next hour or so, it was the popular TV editor’s turn to listen as reporters tore to shreds the thesis that competitive compulsions had allowed for a variety of liberties in reporting, including tapping corporate lobbyists for information, and even allowing opinions to be formed by this information. Incensed mediapersons related their own experience of being able to break stories without compromising on journalistic sources. A senior print journalist with a stupendous track record in political journalism spoke of resisting alluring baits and finding access to important sources solely on the strength of her hard-earned credibility. Another shouted that not all journalists were in the profession for fame. However, unlike Ms Dutt, the amiable Mr. Sardesai quickly conceded the point, accepting that the lines separating journalism, politics and lobbying had indeed blurred to unfortunate portents for the health and future of journalism. The debate wound up with someone good humouredly remarking that the grassroots media had finally taken their revenge.

With the Radia debate into its third week, it has become more than apparent that a new kind of journalism has completely rewritten the rules of engagement in the profession. For those working with television, the glamour and fame can be overpowering, with the high visibility translating into throbbing, pulsating fan clubs, enormous following on social media networks and celebrity status on the party circuit. For the likes of Ms Radia, the “celeb journo” is a sitting duck, a vulnerable target both for passing on and acquiring information. News gathered this way slowly and inevitably acquires a legitimacy that eventually allows all lines to be crossed. From this to concluding that news cannot be got any other way is a small step. The trappings of power work similarly for politicians and journalists. Cut off from the rude realities of the normal world, both begin to live in a bubble of their own making. But whereas the politician, used to voter mood swings, will quickly learn his lesson when the truth hits home, the journalist, not tutored in this art, will react in anger and shock and go into spasms of denial.

Journalists who enjoy the limelight must also be prepared for the backlash when it comes. It can be argued that the journalistic indiscretions revealed by the Radia tapes are small change compared to the scale of adventurism on the part of politicians. Yet journalists alone, among a host of players caught on the tapes, have been at the receiving end of public anger: Rapid-fire tweets, emotional, angry lashing out on facebook accounts, chain text messages, black humour forwards, the responses have fed on each other. Partly lynch-mobbish, the fury is in larger measure because of a feeling of being let down. The public face of the journalist is of a brave, feisty adversary to the rapacious establishment, not the party animal who will wilt before the charms of the corporate lobbyist.

Television has hugely expanded this mandate with journalism turning almost vigilantist in the studio; here the fearless, morally superior and much loved anchor is judge and jury to the condemned political class. What the tapes have done is to expose this virtuoso performance as a sham. The combative anchor who relentlessly interrogates and shames his guests on the 9 pm bulletin morphs into an altogether different character on the tapes, entirely at ease with dubious elements. From the perspective of the trusting outsider, the cosy compact between the interrogator, the interrogated and the go-between must surely seem like a rude joke pulled off at his expense.

It does not help that most of those caught out on the tapes have a wafer-thin defence. The one claim that they have all made is that they strung Ms Radia along — as if the hard-nosed lobbyist can be so easily taken for a ride. The question is: What gave Ms Radia the confidence that journalists can be commandeered to do her bidding? What explains the easy familiarity between the hacks and their corporate contact? How is she able to wake up lofty names from their slumber? If, for all her pain and perseverance, Ms Radia only got the journalistic heave-ho, then it is a serious comment on the wisdom of the corporate groups that employed her.

Nor does the privacy argument work, given journalism’s increasingly ferocious appetite for news of any and every kind. Don’t TV eager-beavers chase after their targets, ensnaring them in stings and so on, often without a thought to the damage the telecast might cause to personal reputations? Taped conversations between alleged terrorists are the staple of the medium. Two years ago, TV channels feverishly ran a “sex tape” that allegedly featured a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh functionary. The tape turned out to be a fake but the RSS man lost his job. TV channels on a moral trip on privacy have had no qualms about using salacious gossip involving some of the world’s biggest names, provided by WikiLeaks.

A case has also been made out against Outlook and Open magazine for not following the due process involved in doing the stories, including checking back with the taped journalists. Due process? If the tapes establish anything, it is the attempted subversion of the due process. As the lobbyist of a telecom group, Ms Radia manoeuvres to place a favoured candidate in the Telecom Ministry. She tries to influence parliamentary debate. She makes veiled suggestions about fixing judgments, and she co-opts willing journalists. In one of the tapes, she skewers the news head of a leading financial daily for daring to miss a story; the quaking, quivering news head in turn apologises to her as if she were his boss. Columnists reproduce her lines verbatim, so much so, when the first of the columns appear, Ms Radia and a senior colleague chuckle at the poor journalist’s vulnerability.

Some of the implicated journalists have since been suspended by their organisations. The media must introspect more seriously, following it up with a clear understanding of the red lines, if lobbyists are not to make a habit of bossing us, if people are not to treat every story and every journalist with suspicion.


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