Supreme Court moots strengthening self-regulatory mechanism for news channels

A Supreme Court bench of CJI DY Chandrachud, Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Mishra said that panalties against TV channe should be proportionate to the profits earned by the channel from a show.
Supreme Court (Photo | Express)
Supreme Court (Photo | Express)

Questioning the quantum of one lakh fine on news channels for indulging in unethical conduct, the Supreme Court on Monday mooted strengthening the effectiveness of the self-regulatory framework governing them.

Taking note of News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA’s) failure to revise the penalty for 15 years, a bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Mishra said that the fine should be proportionate to the profits earned by the channel from that show. 

Considering NBDAs plea against the Bombay HCs order of making adverse observations against it on self-regulation of TV channels, CJI DY Chandrachud while giving an example of media going berserk after actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death remarked that news channels “virtually pre-empt the entire investigation.” 

“You say TV channels practice self-restraint. I don't know how many in court would agree with you. Everybody went berserk whether it was a murder.. etc. You preempt the investigation. We see your point that self-regulation. You at the same time don’t want Govt to intrude into the space. But the self-regulatory mechanism has to be made effective. Imposing of a fine of Rs 1 lakh on channels, is effective? When was this 1 lakh fine devised? Over the last 15 years, NBA hasn’t considered it to increase the fine. The fine should be in proportion to the profit how they make on the show. We commend you for having a self-regulatory mechanism but that effectively has to be effective,” CJI DY Chandrachud said. 

The top judge further said, “We are as much concerned about free speech as the channels are, but you presume the guilt of a person in your shows and not the innocence of a person until he or she is proven guilty. Media went berserk after that actor's (Sushant Singh Rajput) death.. you virtually pre empt the entire investigation.”

The bench also issued a notice in NBDA’s plea and directed the watchdog to consult former judges AK Sikri (current NBDA chairperson) and RV Raveendran (former NBDA head) for putting some bite into its regulations. 

“There are some who do not observe the restraint. We’d like to strengthen the self-regulatory mechanism & you can speak to J Sikri & make us some suggestions Mr Datar. We’ll issue notice,” CJI also said.

Underscoring the need for the court’s intervention in laying down comprehensive guidelines to regulate the conduct of TV channels, SG Tushar Mehta for the center told the bench that NBDA was only one of the regulatory bodies. He added that the centre with Delhi HCs intervention had appointed press officers tasked with the duty of briefing the media to avoid unnecessary sensationalism. 

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