Monday, November 7th, 2016

NDTV ban: SC to consider legality of Telecasting Programme Code

R Venkataraman | November 7, 2016 4:49 pm Print
According to the government which banned telecast of the channel, it gave out “sensitive information”which could have been used by the terrorists.


The June 2015 clause of the Programme Code issued by the Information & Broadcasting Ministry will now come into a sharp focus with the New Delhi Television (NDTV) challenging a ban before the Supreme Court.
According to the June 2015 clause, “live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces, wherein media coverage shall be restricted to the periodic briefing by an officer designated by the appropriate government till such operation conclude”.

NDTV officially announced that it has moved the Supreme Court of India challenging the ban. This follows an I&B ministry committee issuing an order that the channel goes off the air for 24 hours from 00:01 hrs on November 9. The issue is the coverage of the TV channel of the terrorist attack in Pathankot air base allegedly engineered by the neighbouring Pakistan. It is said to be in violation of broadcasting norms, especially the new clause issued in June 2015. According to the government which banned telecast of the channel, it gave out “sensitive information”which could have been used by the terrorists.

However, no FIR has been lodged by anyone, including the government and the Supreme Court’s new guidelines on FIR stipulates that such FIRs be uploaded on the official website of the police and if there is no such website for the police it should have been uploaded on the official website of the state government concerned. Only a show cause notice was issued to the channel in January this year on which NDTV appealed before the committee constituted by I&B Ministry. It only said that it was “subjective interpretation”. But the government went on to ban its telecast for a day starting 00:01hrs on November 9.

NDTV allegedly revealed the “strategically sensitive” details during its coverage of Pathankot attacks in India by Pakistan. But what may come into the focus is whether a telecast inadvertently showed pictures including “strategically sensitive” details. Then, how, these details are subject to telecast? If so, whether there was lacuna by the Indian forces on this side also? The Indian Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) came to the conclusion the channel concerned was revealing “strategically sensitive” details. Who allowed it? The coverage or the lapse? These questions will come into the focus during the debate if India’s Top Court admits the petition and issues notices, even after a stay on the order or no stay.

R Venkataraman
R Venkataraman
(The writer is ex-accredited correspondent of Supreme Court of India, Parliament of India, Central Government (PIB) and ex-member Press Council of India.)