Regulating media: Soni backs Justice Katju

Last Updated : 17 November 2011, 13:43 IST

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The Minister also asked the self-regulatory bodies in the broadcast sector to increase their memberships for effective participation of all sections and be sensitive to the needs of the public.

This, she said, would help reflect the true status of the broadcasting sector and help in effective participation of smaller players in the sector.

"Self regulatory mechanism has been in place and they should keep hearing the public voices in this regard and work accordingly," Soni said while addressing a public discussion on "Strengthening self-regulation of advertising content" organised by the Advertising Standards Council of India.

On Justice Katju's comments that self-regulation had not worked in the broadcast sector, she said, "please do not misunderstand Justice Katju. He is a very eminent jurist. Even during his tenure as a Supreme Court judge, he gave some very path-breaking judgments."

She said he has initiated a very important debate. The issue he has again brought to the public arena is one which have been raised by Justice P B Sawant and Justice G N Ray. A GoM was constituted in January this year in this regard.

"In a democracy, unless you have a debate and dialogue on issues, especially which are of concern to the common person, you cannot arrive at a final solution. I think Justice Katju and a man of his eminence has rearticulated issues which are being raised from time to time. But no one has taken any firm step on them. Let there be a debate. Yesterday also, he had initiated a debate and something will come out of it," she said.

On more powers for the Press Council of India, Soni said "they needed powers but there has to be a consensus". She said every political party, which had been in power, tried to bring a National Broadcasting Bill but there is no consensus.

She, however, said "if the nation wants stricter rules, Parliament is there. But there has to be majority view.... there are areas where we need to work on." Citing the growth in the broadcasting sector with over 800 channels at the national and regional level, she said this would also enhance the effectiveness of self regulation and make the environment responsive to the needs of consumers.

The Minister said it was critical for every stakeholder in the industry to work with sensitivity towards the hopes and aspirations of the people. Self Regulation as a process needed to be in a state of constant evolution so as to address critical concerns that arose from time to time, she said.

She added it was necessary to believe in this process in view of the changes taking place within the industry which offered tremendous opportunities for the advertising sector to become one of the principal engines of growth.

"The advertisements should be meant to interest people to sell products and should be made keeping in view public taste...The self regulatory system should also change accordingly as per public demand," she said.

As Indian society was complex in character, advertising needed to be sensitive to socio-cultural requirements of society especially women, children, disadvantaged and marginalized communities, Soni said, adding the commodification needed to be prevented since advertisements made an impact and influenced behaviour in a very pronounced manner.

Soni also mentioned that public good would be served better if self regulation was put in place at the content- generation stage. She called upon ASCI to create ads which did not offend the sensibilities of viewers. The Minister also expressed concern over the increased number of complaints received by ASCI this year, as compared to last year.

She mentioned that against 190 advertisements, 777 complaints had been received this year, as against 200 complaints vis-à-vis 159 advertisements last year. The Minister also called upon ASCI to reduce the time lag between the date of the complaints received and action taken by ASCI. The objective in this case ought to facilitate a quick corrective mechanism.

The Minister also highlighted the concerns of young India with the necessary transparency and accountability from all entities which impacted the lives of such people.

Published 17 November 2011, 13:43 IST

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