Self-regulation gained’t do, SC desires guidelines for TV channels

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 17

Noting that self-regulation by TV channels wasn’t good enough, the Supreme Court today made it clear to the Centre that it wanted a statutory regime to regulate TV channels in India.

Calls for mechanism to Curb fake news

  • SC has sought a statutory regime to address grievances against fake news
  • What’s shown on news channels has great consequences for the country, it maintains

3 weeks given by the SC to the Centre to inform it about steps to form the regulatory regime

PIL on Tablighi coverage

A PIL has demanded action against channels that linked Tablighi event to Covid surge

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said self-regulation by TV channels through private bodies such as National Broadcasters Association (NBA) and National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) wasn’t good enough.

It wondered why a private body like the NBSA should look into complaints against media. The top court asked the Centre to create a mechanism to address grievances against fake news circulated by TV channels and media.

“What is shown on TV channels is of great consequence for the country… Create a mechanism under the law if there is none at present,” the Bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta after he submitted that there was no regime for content regulation of electronic media.

The CJI’s observations came during a hearing on PILs filed by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and Peace Party seeking directions to the Centre to stop dissemination of “fake news”.

The petitioners demanded strict action against TV channels allegedly spreading communal hatred against Muslims by stating that Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi in March was responsible for the spread of Covid-19.

The Centre refuted the petitioners’ allegations that media was largely communal in reporting the incident.

In an affidavit filed in the top court, the Centre said the IT Ministry had issued 743 orders for blocking fake or misleading content on social media related to Covid-19.

But the Bench wasn’t happy with the Centre’s affidavit. “We had asked you to specify how Cable TV Network Act can be used to control the content of cable TV network. Your affidavit is silent on it. Other issue is what steps you can take to deal with such complaints…. the mechanism… Your affidavit is silent on it. Please put all these in your amended affidavit. The Centre has the power under the Act,” the Bench told Mehta.

“If you have no mechanism evolve one or we will entrust it to an outside agency,” the CJI said. Noting that the NBA and the NBSA were self-regulatory bodies, Mehta said the Centre had ample powers to regulate content of TV channels but it took a very cautious approach as it involved media’s fundamental right to free speech.

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