New Delhi : Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni Thursday defended Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju for initiating a debate on whether to have a regulatory body and asked self-regulatory bodies in the broadcast sector to expand their membership so that they become more effective.
Soni also urged advertisers not to create ads which offended the sensibilities of viewers.
Increasing the membership of self-regulatory bodies would ensure the proactive and effective participation of smaller players in the broadcast sector, she said.
“An increased membership would reflect the true status of the broadcasting sector,” said Soni while citing the mushrooming of over 800 channels at the national and regional levels in more than 20 major languages and covering around 140 million homes.
“This would also enhance the effectiveness of self regulation and make the environment responsive to the needs of the consumers,” she stressed.
“Self-regulatory mechanism has been in place and they should keep hearing the public voices in this regard and work accordingly,” Soni said while speaking on “Strengthening self-regulation of advertising content” organised by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).
Alluding to 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.”
Soni commended Katju for initiating a very important debate and highlighting an issue which has been also raised by Justice P.B. Sawant and Justice G.N. Ray. Early this year, the government had set up a group of ministers on the issue.
“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,” she said.
“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 said.
Soni also underlined that public good would be served better if self-regulation was put in place at the content generation stage.
Asked about more powers for the Press Council of India, Soni stressed the need for “a consensus”. She added every ruling political party tried to bring a National Broadcasting Bill but consensus has proved to be elusive.
She urged the advertising industry to become more responsive to the needs of the people and basic canons of good taste.
“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.
She voiced concerns over surging complaints received by the the ASCI.
Against 190 advertisements, 777 complaints had been received this year, as against 200 complaints vis-a-vis 159 advertisements last year, she said while urging the advertising body to create ads which did not offend the sensibilities of viewers.
She asked the ASCI to reduce the time lag between the date of the complaints received and action taken and evolve a quick corrective mechanism.