Mohit Sinha , Deputy Editor , India TV

Broadcasting in India has gone largely unregulated for years. Creating sensationalism to attract viewers has overtaken newsworthiness to a large extent.

Media makes a deep impact on our society and has the power to mould and manipulate the minds of the masses. Broadcasting in India has gone largely unregulated for years. Creating sensationalism to attract viewers has overtaken newsworthiness to a large extent. Competition began in the broadcasting media in 1990s with the advent of private broadcasters. Private channels mushroomed and multiplied drastically. Today, there is cut-throat competition among the broadcasters, and survival in this intensely competitive environment depends on the television ratings. There is desperation to carry breaking stories even on undeserving issues leading to compromise with journalistic ethics.

Another brunt of this competition is to conduct media trials in cases which are already sub-judice. There is a popular trend of debate shows during evening band on sub-judice matters, inviting opinions from public, social activists, and politicians. Former Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar had expressed concern over the media trial of suspects in any case and had given a hint that the Supreme Court would draw the line on how much police can reveal the media during the pre-trial, investigation stage as such reporting at times affects free and fair trial. The guidelines proposed, in line with an existing central government advisory, will decide whether the accused can be paraded before media and whether their identities can be revealed. Media has the power to make the viewer judgmental instantly triggering his emotions which can turn out to be very dangerous if manipulated.

At present, the broadcast content is regulated mostly by self-regulatory mechanism. For regulation of content on news and current affairs TV channels, the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) is an independent body set up by the News Broadcasters Association. The NBSA administers over the codes of ethics & broadcasting standards, voluntarily drawn by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) for its member broadcasters to demonstrate their commitment to responsible broadcasting and for self-regulation. NBSA does not interfere in the day-to-day operations of the broadcasters giving them complete creative and editorial independence.

For the self-regulation of general entertainment and non-news and current affairs TV channels, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has adopted certain self-regulatory guidelines and content code.The Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) an independent self-regulatory body for non-news and general entertainment channels is set up by the IBF to receive complaints against any programme.

Apart from the self-regulatory measures, the Ministry for Information Broadcasting (MIB) has set up the electronic media monitoring centre to effectively monitor content of TV channels and to check if there is any violation of the cable act or other laws of the land. It monitors various television channels and reports to a committee of MIB regarding the violations. The committee examines the violations and submits its report to the inter-ministerial committee setup by MIB to look after any violations. The inter-ministerial committee can take action either suo moto or on any complaint on a violation brought to the notice of the MIB.

The MIB has also set up state-level and district-level monitoring committees to enforce the cable act. In case the complaint is related to national or regional TV channels, the district committee can approach the state committee to recommend about the violation to the IMC.

Broadcasters are providing consumer service to the viewers. Though the viewer pays for the channels he subscribes, it is the broadcasters who decides the content, not viewers. A viewer has a right to demand quality content for what he pays. If the content is not regulated, media could possibly be subjected to various other legal liabilities in future. Therefore, it is in the interest of the media to frame out a strong self regulatory framework to ensure quality content.