The Supreme Court today asked the government to set up a statutory mechanism for redressal of complaints against contents of private TV channels and radio stations and accord due publicity to the measures to enable citizens approach it with their grievances.
A bench, comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud, however refrained from commenting on the submission of News
Broadcasters Association and Association of Radio Operators for India that self-regulatory mechanism has worked effectively for electronic media and radio channels.
Referring to section 22 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, the bench asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to constitute a body under the provision to deal with citizens' complaints against television channels and radio stations regarding their alleged objectionable contents.
"We cannot ask them (Centre) to monitor the content of the channels. How can we do that? You can approach us or the authority concerned after telecast or airing of objectionable contents only," the bench observed at the outset when lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Kamini Jaiswal sought establishment of an independent regulatory authority to govern broadcast media.
"If something happens and you find them obnoxious, then we will certainly deal with them. Generally speaking, we cannot interfere with it and do content regulation," it said.
It also said the issue pertained to the right of media enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution on freedom of speech and expression.
The court asked the Ministry to use the power under section 22 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act to set up the mechanism and rules to "formalise the complaint redressal mechanism" and accord "adequate publicity" to it so as to enable the public approach it with their complaints.
It asked the Centre to devise procedures with regard to the time limit for filing and deciding complaints and filing of appeals by the aggrived parties, among other things.
The bench disposed of the PIL filed by NGO 'Mediawatch India' seeking a regulatory body for the media on the ground that the Centre has failed to regulate the contents of the broadcast media.
During the hearing, Bhushan said "this business of self
regulation business doesn't work".
The plea, however, was opposed by the counsel for News
Broadcasters Association (NBA) who said the self regulatory mechanism has been working well for news
The Centre, meanwhile, informed the court that till 2011, it had "the capacity to monitor 150 TV channels 24x7" which could be raised to 1500 channels by the end of this year.
Besides NBA, the Association of Radio Operators for India and Advertising Standards Council of India were made parties to the petition which was filed in 2013.
"For the last one and a half decades, the Ministry of I&B is perpetuating virtual anarchy in the realm of broadcast media regulation. Especially on the content regulation front, its broadcaster-appeasing and wait-and-watch policies marked by sheer ad hocism and indifference to viewers' interests are adversely affecting the rights of millions of broadcast media consumers," the petition had said.
"The Ministry as content regulator had failed completely in protecting the interests and basic rights of the audience.
"It has not constituted sufficient infrastructure and resources to ensure quick decision-making against offending channels and is also not imposing deterrent penalties as provided by law," it had said.
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