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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Press Council of India seeks to bring electronic, social media under its ambit

NEW DELHI: Print media watchdog the Press Council of India (PCI) wants to increase its powers to include electronic and social media. Claiming that self-regulation was an "oxymoron", the PCI said in a statement on Tuesday said that it had resolved to approach the government for amendments in the Press Council Act. However, at least three PCI members said that while the controversial issue was discussed no resolution had been passed. The PCI's move to curb social media comes days after government's aggressive drive to block twitter accounts and restrictions on the number of SMSes.

The Council has argued that "unregulated" electronic media had played "havoc" with the lives of people referring to recent incidents where social networking sites were used to spread rumours that triggered exodus of people belonging to northeastern states. Justifying its demand PCI headed by former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju said that there should not be "any dilly-dallying in the matter by the government.Katju had written to I&B minister Ambika Soni and PM Manmohan Singh to bring TV channels in the Council's ambit.

PCI member Malayalam Monarama and The Week resident editor K S S Murthy expressed surprise at the announcement of a resolution. "My recollection of the proceedings of the Press Council meeting yesterday is that we had discussed the issue of amendments to the Press Council Act. It was the general consensus that the question of amendments — including give more powers to the Council and bringing electronic and social media under the Media Council — would be discussed at the next meeting of the Press Council," he said.

Another member TOI spoke to said that no resolution was passed though there was a discussion and there was general unanimity on the issue. Nineteen out of 27 members were present, including Congress minister Rajiv Shukla, BJP MP Harin Pathak, besides representatives from newspapers.PCI said that it had resolved that the government be asked to initiate suitable legislation to amend the Press Council Act to bring the electronic media (both broadcast and social media) within the purview of the Act and renaming it as the 'Media Council.'

PCI said that experience had shown that "the claim of the broadcast media for self-regulation is futile and meaningless, because self-regulation is an oxymoron. All social activity has to be regulated." The statement added that PCI was in favour of only regulation and not control, and that this regulation should be by an independent statutory authority like the Press Council of India and not the government.


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