In the cold war era, it used to be said that the first target of wannabe-dictators was government-controlled radio stations—take control of it and you control the message going out.
In the post-liberalised era, the first target of the government seems to be private television stations.
Below is the full text of the “advisory” issued by the information and broadcasting ministry headed by Manish Tiwari to news and current affairs satellite TV channels on Sunday as coverage of the protests in Delhi brought the “people to the gate” (in the memorable words of The Times of India).
Interestingly, the chairman of the national broadcasting standards authority, the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, J.S. Verma, has been simultaneously named as the chairman of the three-member committee to review the laws for “speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault”.
All News and Current Affairs satellite Television Channels
Ministry of Information & Broadcasting
“A” Wing Shastri Bhawan
23rd December, 2012
Whereas a number of private satellite news TV channels have been showing programmes covering round-the-clock direct telecast of the events relating to public demonstration being held in New Delhi in the wake of the unfortunate and tragic incident of gang rape of a young girl on 16th December, 2012 in a moving bus.
The channels have been covering the agitation and the efforts of the law enforcing authorities to maintain law & order, as well as the commentaries of the channel reporters to portray the incidents from their own perspectives.
Whereas this incident and the public outcry in its aftermath are a very sensitive issue and any inappropriate media reportage thereon is likely to vitiate the law and order situation.
It has been observed that some private satellite news TV channels in their 24X7 coverage have not been showing due responsibility and maturity in telecasting the events relating the said demonstration and such a telecast is likely to cause deterioration in the law & order situation, hindering the efforts of the law enforcing authorities. (emphasis added)
Whereas Rule 6(1)(e) of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, which contains the Programme Code to be strictly adhered to by all private satellite television channels, provides that no programme should be carried in the cable service which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national attitude.
Now, therefore, all private satellite television channels are advised to scrupulously follow the Progarmme Code laid down in the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 and to ensure to telecast the matter in a responsible manner with due care, maturity and restraint.
Any violation of the Programme Code will invite such action as provided for in the Cable Television(Regulation) Act, 1995 and the Rules framed thereunder as well as the terms & conditions stipulated in Uplinking & Downlinking Guidelines.
Joint Secretary to the Government of India
Photograph: courtesy Press Trust of India
Crossposted on sans serif
Also read: The New York Times calls Kapil Sibal‘s bluff