Ambika Soni for self-regulation by Media

New Delhi: Defending the mechanism of self regulation for the Media, Information and Broadcasting minister Ambika Soni today said that this slower but surer system only needed more time to establish itself.

Soni was speaking at an event hosted by ASSOCHAM where Press Council Chairman Justice Markandey Katju had in his speech earlier heavily criticised the news media for not highlighting the real issues facing the country.

"Rules and regulations for media, cable, television, the Censor Board which the Parliament in its wisdom has put in its place should be at least given an initial chance of self regulation", Soni said responding to Katju.

Making a case for self regulation, Soni said that when a person is given the responsibility of deciding whether he has done the right thing by showing one hour of superstition or other illogical things, somewhere down the line his conscious is going to prick.

"May be this is a slow process but in my mind it is a surer process because we will be converting minds and hearts and that will be a long term advantage for our country. Let`s not condemn self regulation per se", Soni said.

Earlier speaking at the same event Katju said that the Indian media is highly commercialised and what mattered to the electronic media was high TRPs, which was the reason for channels showing astrology and not real issues.

Katju criticised the self regulatory mechanism set up by news channels and asked why the News Broadcasters Association or the Broadcast Editors Association had no record of taking action against erring channels. Referring to Aishwarya Rai, Katju said that a film star`s pregnancy would have garnered top headlines but for the hue and cry he raised.

Speaking after Katju, Soni said that measures like Cable Digitalisation would improve the content on TV. Though she favoured self regulation by the media, Soni said those who were not happy with what they see and read also had the right to express their dissatisfaction.

Referring to the private member`s Bill that Congress MP Meenakshi Natarajan had moved in the Parliament, the minister said that she was within her rights to do so. "This Member of Parliament may feel as frustrated as some of us do that today media is not reflecting or television channels are not showing enough of what we want to see," Soni said.

"Why does the media have this touch-me-not attitude. You create aberrations, have Paid news …some do not all… but everyone has to pay for it", she added.

Soni said that there were people who felt that media needs to be regulated and they too had the freedom under the Constitution to hold on to their views. "So lets not think that this freedom of expression is granted to only one section of society. I know I am talking differently but Justice Katju provoked", she asserted.

Soni said that interactions revealed that there were two areas – TRP and carriage fee, which were the concerns of Broadcasters. TRPs were needed to get advertisements, and carriage fee had to be paid to reach viewers, the Broadcasters told her.

Soni said that Digitalisation was a solution to these problems as channels will get subscription fee and there would be a better information of who is watching what. The minister further said that if Digitalisation was not implemented fast enough DTH could take over the cable market.