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TV channels pan government regulations

A Correspondent in New Delhi | January 14, 2009 03:59 IST

Editors of major Indian television news channels have described the central government's proposed amendments to the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act  to regulate electronic media as an assault to the principles of free media and right to speech and expression.

They asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] to intervene and uphold the democratic credentials of the country. They said that in the name of coverage of anti-terror operations, the government is aiming to rein in the media.

'The self-regulation attempts which were put in place by the news channels have been completely disregarded by the government and attempts are now being made to completely subjugate the media into virtually perform the role of government public relations wing,' they said in a statement.

Signatories to the statement include Rajdeep Sardesai [Images], CNN IBN, Barkha Dutt, NDTV, Arnab Goswani, Times Now, Deepak Chaurasia, Star News,  N K Singh, ETV, and QW Naqwi, Aaj Tak.

According to the proposed amendment, district and sub-district officers shall have powers to block live transmission of any news channel and also confiscate the transmission equipment.

Further, the TV news channels are supposed to provide visuals and footage through a nodal agency in any emergency situation. 'This means that television channels can no longer cover communal riots and even agitations like the one seen in Rajasthan during the Gujjar Andolan or the Gujarat riots few years ago,' the statement said.

The proposed amendments also empowers officers to decide whether repeat telecast of any footage is necessary or not, whether any information is unauthenticated and therefore be blocked, and whether any phone-in of a reporter and victim or their interviews will disturb public order or is against national interest.

The editors stressed that the existing laws already arm the government to act against the TV channels which are violating the conditions laid out under the licensing agreements.






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