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Home > News > PTI

Regulatory authority to have power to check content

June 02, 2007 02:06 IST

Sting [Images] operations may not be banned under the new content code, but the proposed Broadcasting Regulatory Authority of India will have enough teeth to take channels to task if the contents are "inaccurate" and "unjustified".

In a content code committee meeting held among the government, television channels, media research organisations and women's groups in New Delhi on Friday, there was no specific mention of sting operations, but the stakeholders agreed the footage "must" conform to facts and, if challenged, the channel should prove it was worth a public cause.

"There was no mention of the sting operation as such in the meeting," Asha Swaroop, Secretary, Information and Broadcasting, said adding, "...but what was not acceptable was the deliberate presentation of facts that are not true, unverified, inaccurate facts, half-truths or innuendos."

The committee agreed upon setting up of a three-tier content regulation system, which will have self-imposed regulation of content by the channel to start with.

"First stage will be the self-imposed regulation of the content by the channel itself. The channel is expected to have some kind of 'content auditor' who will take care of the content quality within the channel itself," Swaroop said. In the second stage, there will be peer pressure from the broadcaster associations to restrain the member channel from persisting with the "objectionable" programme.

"It is only if these two fail the broadcasting regulator comes in play to enforce the law," Swaroop said. Penalty may include taking the channel off air.

As for fixing responsibility, the government's suggestion was it should be the "chief editor" of the channel. But several members objected to it, pointing to changed editorial structure in media houses and said the adherence should be made a "corporate responsibility".

The 30 members of the committee have been asked to send their draft proposals on the content issue by June 15, which will be put together and put up on the website for a month for public comments.

These will be vetted and the final content code will be integrated with the broadcasting bill for debate in Parliament. The bill envisages setting up of Broadcasting Regulatory Authority of India. While agreeing TRP was an inevitable factor in channels going overboard with some news events, the committee also took exception to coverage of certain recent events where public sentiments were whipped up such as Dera Sacha Sauda-related clashes, or prompted immolations and suicide bids.

Women's groups, which too participated in the meeting, drew attention to "the way the women" are being portrayed. They have been asked to define what was "indecent" or "denigration" of women in their drafts.

The content will also have grading Universal "U", Universal-Adult "UA" and Adult "A" for the programmes. Adult category programmes may be permitted between 11 pm and 4 am, whereas "UA" category could be shown from 8 pm to 4 am.

Members differed on UA category as Indian Broadcasters Federation and FICCI suggested it should be subsumed in "U" category and should not be made a separate slot.

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