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Pre-censorship/regulation of televised media

 8/15/2017  720

Recently the Information and Broadcasting Ministry ordered that NDTV Channel be shut down for a day for revealing “strategically sensitive” details during its coverage of the Pathankot attacks. (Similar incidents have been in the past too when live coverage of Mumbai Terror Attacks was used by terrorists to direct their on-ground operations)
Though the ban has been withheld, the issue brings forth the Debate between need to regulate the media and the right to freedom of speech and expression.
Present regulatory framework:
Presently the televised media is regulated by News Broadcasting Standards Authority which is an independent body set up by the News Broadcasters Association. It has evolved a code of ethics for news broadcasters and it considers and adjudicates upon complaints about broadcasts. Largely composed of members from the business interests it has been ineffective in regulating the televised news media and hence there has been a demand for a more efficient regulatory body on the lines of Press Council of India.
Way Ahead:
Pre-censorship of media is not a viable option in a democratic polity like ours as it amounts to violation of the Freedom of Speech and Expression.
Instead there should be established a multi-member body on the lines of Press Council of India to regulate the news broadcasters. Inspiration for such a body can alternately be taken form United Kingdom's OfCom or Office of Communications which is a statutory body regulating the televised press and also has powers to enforce its decisions.
Also, detailed guidelines should be laid down for televised coverage of terror attacks, sensitive and secure areas etc. Such guidelines should be evolved only after detailed discussions between the media, government and the armed forces.

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