Soni backs Jt Katju on self regulation on media

I&B Minister Ambika Soni defended Press Council chairman Justice Katju for initiating a debate on whether to have a regulatory body and for raising the issue in public.

Updated: Nov 17, 2011, 18:50 PM IST

New Delhi: Advocating self regulation in the
broadcast sector, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika
Soni on Thursday defended Press Council chairman Justice Katju for
initiating a debate on whether to have a regulatory body and
for raising the issue in public.

The Minister also asked the self-regulatory bodies in
the broadcast sector to increase their memberships for
effective participation of all sections and be sensitive to
the needs of the public.

This, she said, would help reflect the true status of the
broadcasting sector and help in effective participation of
smaller players in the sector.

"Self regulatory mechanism has been in place and they
should keep hearing the public voices in this regard and work
accordingly," Soni said while addressing a public discussion
on "Strengthening self-regulation of advertising content"
organised by the Advertising Standards Council of India.

On Justice Katju`s comments that self-regulation had not
worked in the broadcast sector, she said, "please do not
misunderstand Justice Katju. He is a very eminent jurist. Even
during his tenure as a Supreme Court judge, he gave some very
path-breaking judgments."

She said he has initiated a very important debate. The
issue he has again brought to the public arena is one which
have been raised by Justice P B Sawant and Justice G N Ray. A
GoM was constituted in January this year in this regard.

"In a democracy, unless you have a debate and dialogue on
issues, especially which are of concern to the common person,
you cannot arrive at a final solution. I think Justice Katju
and a man of his eminence has rearticulated issues which are
being raised from time to time. But no one has taken any firm
step on them. Let there be a debate. Yesterday also, he had
initiated a debate and something will come out of it," she

On more powers for the Press Council of India, Soni said
"they needed powers but there has to be a consensus". She
said every political party, which had been in power, tried to
bring a National Broadcasting Bill but there is no consensus.
She, however, said "if the nation wants stricter rules,
Parliament is there. But there has to be majority view....
there are areas where we need to work on."

Citing the growth in the broadcasting sector with over 800
channels at the national and regional level, she said this
would also enhance the effectiveness of self regulation and
make the environment responsive to the needs of consumers.

The Minister said it was critical for every stakeholder in
the industry to work with sensitivity towards the hopes and
aspirations of the people. Self Regulation as a process needed
to be in a state of constant evolution so as to address
critical concerns that arose from time to time, she said.

She added it was necessary to believe in this process
in view of the changes taking place within the industry which
offered tremendous opportunities for the advertising sector to
become one of the principal engines of growth.

"The advertisements should be meant to interest people to
sell products and should be made keeping in view public
taste...The self regulatory system should also change
accordingly as per public demand," she said.

As Indian society was complex in character, advertising
needed to be sensitive to socio-cultural requirements of
society especially women, children, disadvantaged and
marginalized communities, Soni said, adding the
commodification needed to be prevented since advertisements
made an impact and influenced behaviour in a very pronounced

Soni also mentioned that public good would be served
better if self regulation was put in place at the content-
generation stage.

She called upon ASCI to create ads which did not offend
the sensibilities of viewers. The Minister also expressed
concern over the increased number of complaints received by
ASCI this year, as compared to last year.

She mentioned that against 190 advertisements, 777
complaints had been received this year, as against 200
complaints vis--vis 159 advertisements last year.

The Minister also called upon ASCI to reduce the time lag
between the date of the complaints received and action taken
by ASCI. The objective in this case ought to facilitate a
quick corrective mechanism.

The Minister also highlighted the concerns of young India
with the necessary transparency and accountability from all
entities which impacted the lives of such people.