Why Government cannot be news editor

I had written some time back about the fact that the members of Local Circles must have full right to question the Government and many of you supported my ask.

While I love Mr. Modi for his vision and hard work, I do believe that Government should not own a social media site, a tv channel or a news paper.

The Govt should have no business approving or editing news. At the same time, media should have no business doing paid political and business news.

Relevant piece below by Shivam Vij on Why Government cannot be news editor

The ministry of information and broadcasting has swung into action to defend the honour of the Indian judiciary and the President of India. We are told that three TV news channels have disgraced the head of state and the final arbiter of the Constitution. Such disgrace has been hurled by considering a different point of view on giving capital punishment to Yakub Memon.

Here are the sins committed by ABP News, Aaj Tak and NDTV 24x7. They aired phone interviews with Chota Shakeel, a wanted man. That Chota Shakeel said Yakub Memon was innocent, that justice had not been done to him and that Shakeel didn't believe the court. NDTV aired an interview of Memon's lawyer who pointed out that many countries have done away with the death penalty.

Newspapers carried such views too, as did social media and news websites. One newspaper even reported the views of Tiger Memon, who supposedly called them up. However, newspapers and new media are not going to be hauled up in the same way, because neither is subject to the draconian and laughably broad "Programme Code".

If the ministry of information and broadcasting was to strictly, honestly and even-handedly implement the Programme Code, no TV channel would exist in India, news or sports or entertainment, perhaps not even Doordarshan.

The Programme Code is prescribed under Rule 6 of the Cable Network Television Rules, 1994. It has fifteen sub-clauses, from (a) to (o). Firstly, broadcasters should not carry any programme that "offends against good taste or decency." The incorrect syntax there offends my taste, but I'm not the minister for grammar.

Is there anything the government can't interpret as offence to good taste and decency? Should the government decide uniform national taste and arbitrate what is decent for 1.2 billion people? How tasteful is it for TV anchors to constantly shout on the top of their voices? How decent is it for TV news to ask questions and not let guests respond?

The government is unlikely to cancel the licence of a channel because its anchors are too loud, but the point is that it can legally do so if it wants. The Programme Code is deliberately so broad so that whenever the government wants, it can issue TV channels a notice under the provisions of this code. Never has anyone's licence been cancelled and punitive action such as taking the channel off air for a few days, has been rare. What such notices do is to convey a threat. Do as we say, or we have all the powers to silence you.

It is not hard to guess the other clauses: content that "contains criticism of friendly countries"; is "contemptuous of religious groups"; "Contains anything obscene, defamatory, deliberate, false and suggestive innuendos and half truths" and so on.

Half our Hindi news channels could be shut down under the clause that prohibits promotion of superstition. Questioning the government line on national security issues would invite the clause in national integrity. Disagreeing with death penalty, as we can see, invited the clause on "casting aspersions on the integrity of the President." The makers of the Programme Code clearly think that the I&B ministry should reduce the burden of the courts by deciding what "amounts" to contempt of court.

The Programne Code is so clearly violative of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, and so clearly unreasonable in its restrictions, that it needs to be challenged in court.

Most importantly, all restrictions on free speech by the government should come through the courts. Free speech is too important to be left to the government of the day. If the government wants to censor something in public interest, it should get a court order for it.

The notices to three channels over their coverage of the Yakub Memon case, as well as the government ban on coverage of Yakub Memon's funeral, are indicative of the government's desire to control the narrative about issues. Tomorrow, the government will do the same on political issues such as corruption.

The Programme Code was invoked by the UPA2 government too. Free speech is too important to be a BJP-Congress issue.

We cannot let the government decide how we think, what is news and what is not news. It cannot take over the job of the TV newsroom's output editor. more  

View all 11 comments Below 11 comments
It is a circle which participates in nation building by giving their best advise and suggestions to the concerned authority for its inclusion while making policy or law on that very subject but not for any politics or gain for any party or government.I feel alike it.+ more  
Having read the point of views of both Aditya Goyal Ji, and Akhilesh Sharma Ji, both have valid points to make. I feel, a middle line approach by the govt. would probably be the best, where the govt. plays the role of setting up transparent and non-ambiguent rules & policies, and than very diligently keeps a watchful eyes on the media houses!.... more  
I strongly disagree with the author of this post. There has to be a strict vigil over what is being Aired in the name of news. Government should edit and release advisory more frequently to make sure these so called news channels are not creating disrest in public and spreading wrong information. There should be a check and restrictions on coverage of any security related news and holding such debates on air. All such programs must be verified not to disclose any security related information.
Purpose and functioning of government include keeping peace in country, maintaining security and for a country like India maintaining a check on communal violence too and it can not be done without having a check and a code of conduct for all such mediums including this LocalCircle. Giving freedom of speech doea not mean to say anything to anybody. My advice to the writer of the post is to think again and better go through his own post any analyze it critically keeping India's security in concern. more  
Well the points raised by mr goyal are signi ficant so iare the broadcast rules which contradicts constitution. First of all the contradiction between broadcast rules and constitution should be amendex in line with constituion. The parliament is a supreme authority to make rules and govern. Government works as a constituent of parliament and under the authority of the constitution. The government has power and right to regulate the speach and expression. Any such news or statement whicj is against the sovereign ity of the country must be stped. more  
Looking at the complete misuse & terribly BIASED anti Govt propaganda BY PAID CHANNELS, there is every need to control the anti-national channels & newspapers. For this, Govt must CRACK THE WHIP AS & WHEN NEEDED. I support Govt's programme code! This Congress party MUST BE TAUGHT A LESSON! more  
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