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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 12 March, 2021

  • 5 Min Read

Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act,1995

Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act,1995 Introduction

  • It is quite regrettable that politicians are often hit by scandals arising from leaked footage purportedly showing them in intimate proximity with women.
  • The latest episode involves former Karnataka Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi, who resigned in the wake of visuals allegedly showing him in such a situation.

Programme Code

  • Speculation about the existence of more such compact discs that could surface in the media has resulted in a lawyer and BJP member obtaining an interim High Court order, that media organisations should abide strictly by the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act.

Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act

  • Indian broadcast rules do not permit pre-censorship of TV programmes and advertisements — that is banning them before they are aired — and only films and film trailers are pre-certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

Important rules

  • Section 20 of the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, states that the government can regulate or prohibit the transmission or retransmission of any programme that it feels is not in conformity with the Programme and Advertising Code, which oversees television content in India.
  • However, since there is nobody to pre-certify content for TV, potentially problematic programmes only come to notice once they have been aired.
  • The Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC), under the I&B Ministry, monitors the content telecast on private TV channels to check if they adhere to the Programme and Advertising Code.
  • Specific complaints on code violations are looked into by an inter-ministerial committee (IMC).

Rule 6 of the Cable TV Network Rules:

  • It is also the responsibility of the channel to ensure its programmes are not violative of the programme code, laid down in Rule 6 of the Cable TV Network Rules.
  • Sub-section ‘c’ of Rule 6 specifically mentions that programmes that contain attacks on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes should not be carried in the cable service.
  • The order is unexceptionable.
  • The broadcast media are expected to conform to the Code.
  • However, when such an omnibus order is passed, it could become a tool of harassment.
  • Under the Act, district magistrates, sub-divisional magistrates and police commissioners are the ‘authorised officers’ to ensure that the Programme Code is not breached.
    • The Bengaluru Police Commissioner has also issued an order prohibiting the broadcasting of anything that breaches the Code.

Widely worded

  • Discretion of the authorised officer: The Code, which is part of the Cable Television Network Rules, is widely worded.
    • For instance, anything that offends good taste or decency, or amounts to criticism of friendly countries, are violations.
    • It also considers defamation, half-truths and innuendo as potential violations.
    • In the absence of judicial orders, it may be unsafe to leave such matters to the discretion of the ‘authorised officer’.
  • Public interest: A key consideration to decide on the content of any broadcast that may be controversial is whether it touches upon any public interest.
    • In this case, it is not merely the private moment of a serving Minister, but his public conduct that is under scrutiny — for the allegation is that he had promised a job to a woman in exchange for sexual favours.

Is it a public or private interest?

  • Of course, in the absence of any complaint from the woman, or even any knowledge about her, it is difficult to prove any wrongdoing.
  • And not even public interest can justify a flagrant breach of privacy of anyone, or the depiction of women in a derogatory manner.
  • But sections of the media may have considered that there is enough public interest to draw attention to the footage, even if they had no intention to air it.

Conclusion

  • The onus is on media outlets to show discretion in dealing with such ‘leaks’.
  • Greater discretion may be warranted for political leaders, especially those with a record of political dishonesty, for it is difficult to blame the public if they expect the worst of them.

Source: TH


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