More the merrier no good for TV channels

More the merrier no good for TV channels

The code of ethics and standards set by the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) for electronic media when reporting or airing incidents of crime and violence are quite stringent. But, who bothers?

Here’s a sampling of some of the salient points of the ethics code of the NBA:
n Identities of victims should not be disclosed in cases of sexual crimes and violence on women and children.

- Violence must not be depicted solely for its own sake, or for its gratuitous exploitation or to pander to sadistic or other perverted tastes.

-  Scenes with excessive violence or
suffering such as close-up shots of persons being subject to brutality, torture or
being killed, and visual depiction of such matter should be avoided.

- Content that contains violent or sexual material, crude, offensive, or coarse language or other content likely to disturb or offend even a reasonable adult viewer should be avoided.

-  Broadcasters should eschew unhealthy competition that may lead to deterioration of broadcasting standards.

The ethics apart, the NBA has also set up an independent body—National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA)—to look into the grievances of viewers. Complaints are looked into by the NBSA and necessary actions are also taken. But, neither the association’s guidelines nor directives of the NBSA are legally binding on the channels.  

The NBA wants the union government to make it mandatory for all the broadcasters to follow self-regulation, so that non-NBA members can also be made accountable. It also wants that NBA Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards be statutorily recognised to enable uniformity of such standards among the news broadcasters. The biggest worry in the broadcasting industry is the way local news channels, run by cable operators, are being allowed to function. According to NBA, such news channels are working without any legal binding.

“As a result the very sensitive and important function of dispensing information, news and views is left to entities, who have no accountability or legal superintendence whatsoever,” the broadcasters association said while bringing the issue to the notice of the I&B Ministry.

According to Information and Broadcasting Ministry, as many as 441 satellite channels, including 35 of Doordarshan have so far been allowed to function under the category of news and current affairs television channels, even as a majority of them are not 24x7 news providers.

The NBA, which presents a “unified and credible” voice before the government on matters that affect the growing industry, has so far only 20 leading news and current affairs broadcasters, comprising 45 news channels, as its members, apart from few regional channels as associate members.

No monitoring

Applications for more news channels are before the government but there is no statutory body to monitor them.

The Press Council of India has suggested bringing electronic media under its purview and vesting more powers in the statutory body, but the government is still considering it.
After facing stiff opposition to a bill that sought to set up a national broadcasting authority a few years back, the government is in no mood to renew efforts to regulate the media. It is rather pressing for self-regulation as the “only viable option” to make them accountable.

“Media should never be regulated by the government. Self regulation is the best policy in a democracy and it will work,” said senior writer and journalist Urmilesh.

“Many young journalists working in the field lack training and an understanding of ethics of journalism. Except a few institutes like IIMC, most of the media schools impart theoretical knowledge. Many media houses too fail to provide freshers adequate training,” he said. He suggested that either a media complaints commission should be set up or the electronic media brought under the ambit of the Press Council.

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