Government mulls curbs on
TV reporting post Mumbai
By Murali Krishnan
Delhi, Dec 4 (IANS) The Indian government has expressed grave
disquiet at the "irresponsible" coverage of television
channels during the Mumbai siege by terrorists with cabinet
ministers, security officials and many citizens clamouring
for some curbs on "wanton reporting" that is said
to have undermined the anti-terror operation, jeopardized
national security and invaded citizens' privacy.
several meetings attended by ministers, senior officials and
political leaders, specific examples of ill-conceived and
callous reporting were pointed out.
television anchors came in for flak for throwing ethical concerns
to the winds by showing footage of commandos being airdropped
on Nariman House, a local hub of an ultra-orthodox Jewish
sect, at the risk to their safety, disclosing strategic details
of the operation on live TV as well as hampering rescue operations
and intruding into people's grief, all for the sake of pumping
TRP - television rating point that measures viewership and
determines revenues of these channels.
channel that gave platform to terrorists, by repeatedly broadcasting
their demands and threats, has been served show-cause notice.
Heads of several other channels have been spoken to, asking
them to show restraint in their coverage and not to let anchors
incite common people to vilify politicians or whip up mass
hysteria against the system, a senior official said.
minister has specifically pointed out how one channel, during
one of its live programmes, allowed a well-known Bollywood
personality to incite people not to pay taxes to the government,
alleging that taxes were being used to beef up the security
of politicians at the common man's expense.
channel reporter was accused of hampering rescue operations
and delaying the passage of ambulances ferrying the dead and
injured before she could get an "exclusive" byte
another channel kept railing at temporary curbs put on live
reporting at a crucial stage of the commando operation, saying
it was a threat to press freedom.
the media, particularly the electronic media, unable to draw
up its own code of conduct and upholding the universally accepted
media ethics regarding putting national interest and security
over people's right to know and boundaries of media inquisitiveness,
the government is seriously considering banning the TRP system
that is used as a industry benchmark for a channel or programme's
popularity by advertisers.
is also a proposal to give more teeth to the Press Council
of India, a quasi-judicial body with a power to adjudicate
on media transgressions but not enforce them or penalize erring
of State for Information and Broadcasting Anand Sharma has
personally spoken to some channel heads and requested them
to exercise restraint in their reporting.
communication from the ministry to the channels has also requested
them not to repeatedly air old footage of death, destruction,
funerals and bloodshed from last week's terror trauma as it
not only defiles the dignity of the dead but affects viewers
emotionally and psychologically.
proposal to have a code of conduct for the media, particularly
the electronic media, has been on the anvil for sometime since
the ministry felt that many of the newly promoted private
channels, who have been floated merely for commercial purposes,
were not bound by any media ethics or journalistic values.
government is, however, trying to evolve a consensus on this
sensitive issue that will strike a balance between freedom
of the press and societal concerns, Sharma told reporters
last week after a meeting of channel heads.
electronic media had agreed to come out with its own code
of conduct but because of differences among themselves nothing
finally was done.
we don't do this ourselves, the government will be forced
to impose something on the media, given the clamour for such
a code now in the wake of the widespread criticism of the
Mumbai reportage by sections of the electronic media,"
Alok Mehta, editor of Nai Duniya and former president of the
Editor's Guild of India, told IANS.
admitted that previous attempts to have such a code was unsuccessful
because of lack of consensus among the stakeholders.