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Govt mulling common Code of Conduct for TV channels: Javadekar

While stressing on “responsible journalism”, Minister for Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar has said that the Government is considering developing a common Code of Conduct for all TV channels. Speaking at a webinar on the occasion of the National Press Day yesterday (November 16, 2020), Javadekar also affirmed that “freedom of the press is the cornerstone of our Democracy” and added that attack on freedom of the press not good.

At the same time he highlighted three challenges faced by the broadcasting ecosystem on the country. The first challenge that he touched upon was the TRP system in the country. He said that the Government had never considered interfering in what was basically a business arrangement between the broadcasters and advertisers based on the TV ratings declared by BARC India. However, in light of the recent developments when TRP was the topic of heated debates, “time has come when we have to step in”, the Minister said. For this, the Government had set up a committee which will look into the possibilities for ending the opportunities for manipulation of TRPs and will come out with a report soon.

He also spoke about giving more powers to the Press Council of India, which oversees the print medium, and added that while the Press Council governed the print medium, there was no such system for the broadcast medium. Hence, there needs to be a strong system of self-regulation. He also mentioned that a committee has been formed, headed by Justice Sikri, which penalises erring channels and asks them to apologise wherever necessary. However, not every channel is a member of this system and there are no restrictions on them, “thus, such a system can’t exist”, he added.

Javadekar further said that many people had suggested introducing a common Code of Conduct for all TV channels and the Government was considering this though a decision has not been taken yet.

The Minister also expressed his concerns regarding the kind of content on OTT, some of which are quite good, but there are some “very bad content” as well. He added that the OTT ecosystem neither has a Press Council like system nor self-regulation. So, there is need to see how to address the concerns about OTT platforms.

It may be recalled that recently, as per a Cabinet Secretariat notification, online news and current affairs portals as well as online content providers have been brought under the ambit of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.

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