New Delhi: The debate over media regulation hotted up today with Vice President Hamid Ansari and Press Council Chief Markandey Katju pitching for a regulatory authority and Government saying self-regulation was the "best way forward".
Katju and Information and Broadacsting Minister Ambika Soni utilised the occasion of National Press Day celebrations in their speeches to give their assessment on the issue of media regulation.
In the absence of any other government regulator, Ansari said the focus has shifted to self-regulation by media organisations, individually or collectively, which he added is yet to succeed as "it is neither universal nor enforceable".
"Individual self-regulation has also failed due to personal predilection and the prevailing of personal interest over public interest," he said.
Referring to objections to having any media regulation, Ansari questioned if the constitutional safeguards on freedom of speech be used to evade regulation of the commercial persona of media corporates and groups. "Where does public interest end and private interest begin?"
Katju on his part was dismissive about the self-regulatory mechanism proposed by the broadcast media, insisting they must come under some regulatory authority which could be of its choice.
The former Supreme Court judge said if TV channels did not want to come under the Press Council they could choose another body and mentioned the proposed Lokpal in this regard.
Justice(retd) Katju said if media says they will be self-regulated then the same principle may apply for politicians and bureaucrats too.
"There has to be some regulatory mechanism. You can't say there will be self-regulation, which means nothing. You alone are saints and everyone are sinners? Then what is this paid news, what is (Niira) Radia tapes and what is all these?."
Soni said self-regulation was the "best way forward" until the issue of regulating it is debated by the people and the opinion of the majority is heard.
She said everyone understands that any kind of control on media, be it electronic or print, is going to be resisted not only by media but by all free-thinkers of the country.
The Hindu's Editor-in-Chief N Ram supported Katju's stand on regulatory mechanism, saying the media needs some kind of a disciplinary authority.
"We have been saying earlier that self-regulation is enough. But I have changed my position and we are moving to that. There is a need for some kind of a body. Self-regulation does now work," he said.
Ram also welcomed Katju's statement on the judgements by the Supreme Court and Bombay High Court on Times Now case.
"If the question is do we need a self-regulatory mechanism then the answer is 'yes'. We need some kind of intervention. We can't just leave it to themselves. We cannot escape this discussion," he said.
Ram said the people of the country will not tolerate the "rogue and corrupt" practices of the media.
Hindustan Times Editor Vinod Sharma said the current model of newspapers has raised a question mark on the institution of editor.
"Media is acting against the letter and spirit of the Constitution.... The real issues that face the nation are not being highlighted by the media," he said.
Senior journalist Zafar Agha termed debates on television news channels as "fake debates" and condemned the "double standards" of media in covering certain topics.