Date :14-Oct-2020

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SOME day, the question about having a regulatory mechanism for broadcast media -- just as it is for the print section -- was to come up in public consideration, which happened when the honourable Bombay High Court asked the Union Government about the arrangement. A bench of Chief Justice Mr. Dipankar Datta and Mr. Justice G.S. Kulkarni raised this question as it heard a bunch of Public Interest Litigations seeking regulation of unrestrained coverage particularly on television news channels about cases like the Sushant Singh Rajput death case. A few celebrities from cinema also have made similar petitions seeking restrictions on what they described as their ‘media trials’.
The issue, thus, appears to have to come to a point when nobody would be able to avoid its consideration and subsequent implementation of a regulatory mechanism to discipline the electronic media. It is not fathomable how the Union Government responds to the question raised by the honourable judges. But sooner than later, it will have to make a decision on the issue, which it was avoiding to do for all these years -- for reasons known to the powers that be.
On quite a few occasions, leading lights of the Government under different dispensations are reported to have left the issue to the conscience of the electronic media and expected its editors and managers to observe certain discipline and sense of responsibility while planning coverage. Despite that concessions, some sections of the larger media also sought to know from time to time why a regulatory mechanism be not instituted for the electronic section as well. All these dimensions of the debate are now likely to come up for a detailed scrutiny in the times to come, perhaps making it necessary for the Government to think of an arrangement like the Press Council of India.
If such a decision is taken, the larger Indian society will feel satisfied about the development. Of course, quite a few issues have often come up as regards the effectiveness of the Press Council -- which is a quasi-judicial body with no teeth. On many occasions, the print media is also known to have asked pertinent questions about the manner in which the PCI operates. We are of the opinion that a regulatory mechanism for electronic media is necessary so that some sections of it that tend to go berserk on many occasions will have to observe restraint. The process of its formation cannot now be delayed any more.