Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Self-Regulation Hoax


In light of the one day token ban on NDTV India for violating broadcasting norms and possibly enabling terrorists to kill our soldiers, the old media is once again busy conjuring up a fantasy of the entire institution being under siege by the government. We wrote about this before, but here we focus on one aspect of the argument: self-regulation. Even in the highly elitist media, there are few who are willing to say (publicly) that there should be no rules and accountability for journalists. Instead, the they point to self-regulation as the solution, through the Editors' Guild and the NBSA. Well, how did that go?
 The experience of self-regulation with the media has only taught us that it is a hoax: self-regulation is a euphemism for a quid pro quo - in exchange for favors, any transgression can be ignored, no matter how blatant. What else explains the way NDTV India merrily reported the location of armaments and residential areas in Pathankhot while it was under siege? The NBSA was there, the rules were there, and yet there was not even an indication of hesitation in violating them.

And consider NDTV's reply to the I&B Ministry: far from regretting their actions, they pointed out how newspapers did the same, which was rightly rebutted by the Ministry by stating that newspapers don't have the trans-national, 24x7 reach of a TV channel. If this were the NBSA, what would NDTV have said? The same reply would've essentially been a warning of letting skeletons out of the closet of the comfy gymkhana of Lutyen's journalists - and the matter would've been buried right there. This is what self-regulation amounts to. If you still don't believe me, remember what the supposed messiah of civil society - Arvind Kejriwal - did to his party's internal Lokpal.

What India needs is an independent media regulator for the already-existing rules and guidelines which, while not interfering with the free media, certainly reads the law out to the them. The UK has a media regulator, and so should we.

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