The ministry of Information and Broadcasting is currently working on a national broadcast policy which will involve a review of all major rules, with a focus on increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) in the area. This policy will be announced in the coming few months or so. Many TV and Radio companies have gone on and requested to the government that this new broadcast policy that they have been working on should be able to safeguard media freedom. They have also suggested that the sector should have a regulator of its own, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

These companies, have also requested I&B ministry to rework the defamation law to protect news channels. Several journalists’ organisations have previously protested against the continued criminalisation of defamation in India, saying this was a holdover from the colonial era and needed reform. The ministry have also said that they will consider views from the broadcasters and also from aggregators, distribution platform operators, the academic community, innovators and start-ups. The changes in the policy will mainly aim to remove regulatory barriers and reduce the obstacles for “investments, innovation and consumer interest”.

Another thing that the broadcasters have brought up is that the news media regulations in India are not unified. Multiple regulatory bodies have led to issues over the enforceability of decisions. A single law with one dedicated regulatory body needs to be devised exclusively for the broadcasting sector, headed by someone who knows the job and the industry well. This is one thing that could really help and take this industry a long way.

There can be a lot of changes that can be made to the policy that the I&B ministry is working on and that is for the good. But this is a thing that can go either way. The few things that the broadcasters have requested will definitely help reporting news in a much better way and also give the journalists a free hand in doing so. But with respect to reforming the defamation law, I’d just like to say that it’s a two way street. I like having the same freedom as much as the next person, without the government or anyone else influencing it. But there should also be accountability in this industry. There will be and there usually is a certain sect in every community and the industry that likes to misuse their freedom and because of whom nice people can’t have nice things. There should be an equilibrium. A journalist/broadcaster shouldn’t be under anyone’s pressure while reporting something but at the same time there should be no yellow journalism. We all have a certain responsibility and we all should own up to it.

By – Amul Vikas Mohan

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