PIL in Supreme Court – Against the uncontrolled and unguided freedom of Electronic media

1. Everybody’s knows that the Electronic Media in the Country has failed to become the true pillar of democracy. It keeps on showing many things which are practically damaging the social fabric of the nation and also poses direct threat to the integrity and security of the Nation. One example of 26/11 Mumbai Jihadi attack would suffice where the media was directly airing the actions of our brave soldiers and the jihadis were alerted because of this live telecasting.

2. It was in these circumstances that an attack in succession against the Hindu leaders and Saints was witnessed by us. After the alleged rape complaint against Sant Asharambapuji broke out,  all the television channels turned berserk and started barking like a bunch of mad dogs and showed many unbelievable things.

3. It showed a consistency, attack the Hindu leaders/saints (which started from Kanchi Kamakoti Pitham Shankaracharya or Swami Nityanandaji) and remain silent and ignorant when it comes to the sexual exploitations of nuns and children in Churches etc.

4. This compelled us to research into the laws and regulations which control, regulate and penalise these electronic media. It revealed a shocking truth – There is no control on the Indian Electronic Media at all.

5. An NGO, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti understood the gravity and filed the PIL in the Supreme Court of India. As the situation was stark and dim, Hon’ble Supreme Court was pleased to issue notice to the Government and the umbrella organisations of these electronic channels.

The summery of this Public Interest Litigation is as follows,  

  1. The growth and income of the Electronic media is enormous.   As on 31.12.2012 there were 850 channels out of which 413 were under News and Current Affairs category and 437 under non-news category. In addition, Doordarshan runs 37 channels. The fact that TV channels have come to wield large popularity and viewership and are surpassing the print media is beyond any doubt.
  2. There is uncontrolled ownership of media such as Bennett Coleman   & Co. Ltd. publishes 15 newspapers including the second largest selling newspaper ‘Times of India’ in various languages, owns a radio channel ‘Radio Mirchi’ through its subsidiary and one Television News Channel “Times Now” and three non-news channels namely Zoom, Ananda and M-3. There are many such instances of cross media ownership. This kind of cross ownership tends to create ‘private treaties’ between the media houses and the business houses or the politicians which again exposes the general public to ‘paid news’. (please click for additional information)
  3. One example of such paid news issue is clear before us – the Zee News – Navin Jindal Case.
  4. Former Chief Election Commissioner, Shri T. K. Krishnamurthy, in his Memorandum submitted to the Committee of Press Council of India, stated as under: “Paid News is only one aspect of the problem. We have heard a few cases where the Journalists blackmail the contesting candidates in elections stating that if they are not properly rewarded monetarily or otherwise they would boycott publishing about them or deliberately spread news against them.”
  5. The Forty Seventh Report of Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology Stated as under – “In the absence of any statutory regulator, other measures adopted so far have not been very effective in checking the menace of “paid news. There has been an effort to regulate the functioning of private channels through the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act 1995. However, there is no mechanism put in place to enforce the provisions of the Act. Steps in the direction of self-regulation by various media bodies have been virtually ineffectual due to lack of teeth.” – ( As quoted by Prasar Bharti)
  6. These electronic channels cover themselves saying that they have self-regulatory mechanism such as News Broadcasting Standards Authority for the News Channels and Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (that too established in 2011). These two main bodies take complaints and at the most levy a fine of Rs. 1 lac apart from passing admonitions. When any misdeed by these channels is punishable under the other criminal and civil laws, these so called self regulators ridicule the regulations and control.
  7. When there are other supervisory bodies such as Censor Board for movies, Press Council of India for the print media, Registrar of Companies for the private and public companies and so on, there is no such controlling authority for electronic media. A legal weakness being continuously exploited by these electronic channels. To name a few examples – when in the abovementioned Swami Nityananda sex scandal issue the video footage was sent for forensic testing – all four laboratories stated that the footage was morphed. In fact the channels have apologised Swami Nityananda in writing (please click to read a copy of apology letter) and have allegedly run a public apology on the channel. A plain letter of apology after three years of defamation is enough? not to mention about the current attack going on on Sant Shri Asharam Bapuji ?

6. Now as the notice is issued to the Ministry of Information Broadcasting,   Ministry of Ministry of Law & Justice, Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, Department of Telecommunications, The Press Council of India, Election Commission of India, News Broadcasters Association, Indian Broadcasting Foundation and the Advertising Standards Council of India, these organs will have to file their affidavits on the issue.

7. We hope this will take us in a better informed society and the media will realise its real Dharma.