SENSE over SENSATIONAL”, “DATA over DRAMA”, “FACTS over FRIVOLOUS” must be the mantra practiced by the TV News Channels in the course of disseminating the information.


Every institution in India is governed by certain standard regulations or norms, but the set of standards applicable to media are yet to be developed. Media one of the strongest pillars of democracy is considered to act itself in maintaining certain practice of professionalism. It is also regarded as watchdog since it checks and balances the power of the other three branches of government i.e., the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Media being regarded with such great importance must possess the standards of high value. The free press facilitates the individuals to partake in all pertinent matters affecting them. It has been universally accepted that only an autonomous press or media can endow citizens with a diversity of information and views on matters of public significance. The liberty to impart information is vested with media.[i]

Freedom of expression and communication through mediums including a variety of electronic media or published materials is an application of the individual human rights principle on freedom of expression. Therefore, the freedom of the press or media is very essential since this enables the public to know the performance of the government, the state, financial system, social systems and other matters of public concern.

The Right to freedom enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution of India guarantees the Freedom of Speech and Expression, among the other rights. Although Article 19 does not expressly provide for freedom of press, the fundamental right of the Freedom of Press is implied in the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression.[ii]

The media practitioners and journalists must comply with appropriate moral and ethical standards of conduct. The media which collects and facilitates information to the public must carry it out with utmost duty and caution and refrain from expediting misleading and distorted information. Hence, the media must ensure a stable balance between the exercise of its freedom and responsibility.

The Media and Entertainment (M&E) Industry in India, which includes print, cinematograph films, broadcasting, and digital media, are all governed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB).


  • Cable Networks Regulation Act, 1995 – It deals with television, both news, and entertainment regulations. This Act majorly covers the provisions relating to broadcast licensing, content regulation, advertising standards, redressal mechanisms and penalties. There are only few provisions with regulate the news channels.

  • Print media regulated by the Press Council of India – The Press Council Act, 1978 claims to be the statutory regulation on the subject. The Press Council of India (PCI, being a statutory and quasi-judicial body governs the conduct of the print media. The chairman, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, heads the PCI. However, the Press Council of India has a limited role to play in the regulation and therefore the Media sector in India is often considered to be self-regulated.

  • News channels and journalists conduct regulated by the News Broadcasters Association (NBDSA) – The television media has established its own ‘self’ regulatory mechanism, i.e., News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA). Self-regulation is the fourth type of regulation which involves regulations being administered and enforced by the bodies themselves through internal policies[iii].

The general idea behind the concept of self regulation is that if the press comes under government control, it would intervene or interfere with media independence and autonomy. Hence, India adopted self-regulation mechanism to ensure impartiality and neutrality.

At present, apart from the statutory body, PCI, there is no other statutory regulatory body to regulate the content of the News Channels in India. They are regulated by a self-regulatory body known as the News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) which has formulated a standards code known as the NBA Code.

The NBDA has also laid down news broadcasting standards regulation as an industry standard and also constituted under it News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) for disputes adjudication and to enforce the NBA code.

Apart from that, an internal mechanism for adherence to authenticity of information is sought to be ensured through mechanisms such as Media Council of Peers and Media Watch Groups, Readers Editor or Internal Ombudsman, ‘letters to the editor’, all of which are intended to highlight and address the wrongs done by media-persons, reporters or the management[iv].


In a case involving the News Channels Times Now Navbharat, News 18 and Aaj Tak, the NBDSA imposes penalties for violating The Code of Ethics and other guidelines on communal issues.

In the programme broadcasted by Times Now Navbharat and News 18, the journalists while discussing the Shraddha Walker murder case incorrectly cited Shraddha Walker as an example of ‘love jihad’. The NBDSA took cognisance of the matter and said that alleging the murder as ‘love jihad’ to air sensational news and gain popularity was against the guidelines. Hence, the term ‘love jihad’ should be used with serious introspection in future broadcasts as religious stereotyping amounts to a violation of the Code of Ethics.

The NBDSA thus imposed a fine of ₹1 lakh and ₹50,000 on the broadcaster of Times Now Navbharat and News 18 respectively and directed the broadcasters of both the channels to get the video removed from all online platforms within seven days of the order.

With regard to the programme broadcast by Aaj Tak, the anchor failed to mention that a mosque was burnt down in Nalanda, Bihar, that Muslim shops and houses around the mosque were also burnt down, and that the cops did not arrive for several hours while the burning was taking place, and when they did arrive, they misbehaved with Muslim women and looted the houses. “The anchor kept blaming Muslims for the violence,” it was alleged[v].

The NBDSA held that by broadcasting the impugned programme, the broadcaster had violated the Code of Ethics and the specific guidelines and accordingly, the authority warned the broadcaster to be careful while airing future broadcasts and also directed it to remove the video from all platforms within seven days of the order.

  • NBDSA imposes ₹50,000 Hindi TV channel News18 India for turning a news debate on Hijab into a “communal issue” and violating the said guidelines.

In this case, the news channel, while discussing the Hijab ban in Karnataka had violated the guidelines by staging the ‘extreme views’ in the debate session.

The anchor Aman Chopra was accused of referring to the Muslim students as “Hijabi gang”, “Hijabwali Gazwa Gang”. The complaint also stated that there were extreme communal remarks made by the panellists in the course of the debate[vi].

The NBDSA did not find any merit in the accusation against the journalist. But, noted that the anchor had acted in flagrant disrespect of the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards. It highlighted the decision of Supreme Court on the role of the anchor to maintain a balance between the panellists and the crucial role they play in stopping hate speech.

The NBDSA held the anchor not only failed to stop the other panelists from crossing the boundary but had given them a platform to express extreme views which could adversely affect the communal harmony in the country. Therefore, considering the above merits the NBDSA imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the broadcaster and admonished the broadcaster. Further, it directed the broadcaster to remove the video of the programme from its website and all platforms within seven days of the order.


The cross-media ownership by big corporate companies has assumed alarming proportions[vii]. Early 2013 saw the leak of the Radia tapes which disclosed the shocking and unholy links between journalists and politicians, lobbyists and business groups. The Press Council of India through its Chairman addressed this issue; however, no stringent measures had been taken. That depicts the incapacity of Press Council of India. It cannot suspend the journalists for the unfair work they do[viii].

Presently, there is no qualification prescribed by the Press Council for journalists, although there is such a situation prevailing in the Bar Council Act for advocates and Medical Council Act for medical practitioners. The Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils have control to remove[ix] a member from the profession for professional misbehaviour and infringement of professional principles. The Medical Council also has similar powers[x]. But the Press Council does not have any power beyond warning or censuring[xi] delinquent journalists. Thus in India, there is no self regulation in reality.


  • There is a need for having the contracts made and drafted among media and journalists or guest contributors that lay prominence on clear requirement to follow the Code of Practice. Each media establishment should have concerned branch to see if it is followed strictly.

  • There should be an independent ombudsman appointed to solve any issues pertaining to newspapers and channels. This can be done assessing the circulation or viewership and further on the basis of revenue threshold. The ombudsman should act as a support system for reporters who are asked to refrain from covering any matters, and additionally for readers to lodge complaints[xii].


  • There should be a universal code of ethics made and those should be distributed to staff journalists without impediment; assets and income or earnings of the news paper company, the editors, journalists are to be made public[xiii].

  • There is a necessity for media training that can be commenced by media establishments as part of journalism courses. New approaches need to be developed where students will be well informed about the current affairs, the working of press, media and that inculcates interests in them[xiv].


No institution can function effectively without adequate framework. The measly and feeble provisions on broadcast regulations have yielded no progress in adjudicating the wrong-doers. The instances of the violating self-regulatory norms are increasing day by day. The deviants can easily get away with their acts by mere payment of fine. Strong legislations have to be enforced to govern the conduct of the news-channels and journalists so as to deter them from committing a similar offence.

Media is the source of information for all the happenings across the country in particular and world at large. Every act or omission on their part influences and affects the public at large. Hence, the media exercising a great impact on the society but be regulated proportionally.

It is the need of the hour to enforce a Statutory Regulation in this regard. The penalizing provisions must be strong and unambiguous to address all the deviant acts of the perpetrators. Further, the need of the time is to draft a common code of conduct for journalists – reporters and editors – separately taking ideas from working journalists across print, TV and web, retired veteran journalists, and those affiliated with media.

Therefore, if the government truly believes in self-regulation, it should take efforts to mandate or facilitate the coming together of the broadcasting fraternity under one umbrella legislation.

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Article Written by – Keerthi K

[i] E. Siapera (eds.) Radical Democracy and the Internet: Interrogating Theory and Practice (Palgrave Macmillan publisher, London, 2010).

[ii] Virender v. State of Punjab, AIR 1958 SC 986 and Sakal Papers v. Union of India AIR 1962 SC 305.

[iii] Denise E. DeLorme, “Early Journalists and the Evolution of Publicists’ Stunts: From Circus Ballyhoo to Professionalism” 2 Journal of interdisciplinary & multidisciplinary Research 27 (2008).

[iv] Meera Mathew, “MEDIA SELF- REGULATION IN INDIA: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS”, ILI Law Review , Winter Issue 2016 

[v] https://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/nbdsa-takes-action-against-three-tv-news-channels-for-violating-guidelines-on-communal-issues/article67905171.ece

[vi] https://thewire.in/media/news18-india-fined-nbdsa-hijab-ban-communal-harmony

[vii] Ibid

[viii] Dunja Mijatović, Media Self-Regulation Guide Book (OSCE publication, Vienna, 2013).

[ix] Advocates Act, 1961, s. 35.

[x] Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, s.24.

[xi] Press Council Act, 1978, s. 14(1).

[xii] Keval J Kumar, Media Education, Communications and Public Policy: An Indian Perspective, (Himalaya Publishing House, Bombay, 1995). Avialable at : http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/IMG/pdf/KevalKumar.pdf (last visited on Aug. 25, 2016).

[xiii] Meera Mathew, “MEDIA SELF- REGULATION IN INDIA: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS”, ILI Law Review , Winter Issue 2016 

[xiv] Ibid

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