In my last post I asked whether the Broadcast Bill, per se is such a bad thing? This was in the light of the haphazardly conducted sting operation by 'Live India' which now turns out to be fake. Of course, a friend at NDTV had told me on the day of the sting that Sudhir Chaudhary, the Editor-in-Chief of the channel did not have the what-would-you-call-it deep-rooted belief in ethics that say most normal journalists have (hah!). In fact, in turns out that both the Editor and the Reporter had tried to run this story at the former employers - India TV, where even that most sensational of channels, and no stranger to the 'honey trap' system decided against it.
Anyway, no point delving into the news, but what the fallout of this news item will be. I'm sure in the columns that will proliferate Edit and Op-Ed pages from tomorrow, there will be calls for the arrest of the editor, the reporter and the 'aspiring journalist' (and this leads to quite disturbing questions in its own right!) girl who posed as the prostitute. Fair enough, I agree with that - if AKB can be sentenced to one month's RI for 'criminal defamation' of a much less injurious nature (you did know this, didn't you?) these three should be locked up for a year at least and blacklisted from the profession. Not that some of these start-up channels really care who the hell they hire and this only made the news because it happened in Delhi and the newspapers decided to get to the bottom of the story. From the reports I've heard, in small-town TV channels such irresponsible reportage is like par for the course.
Which brings me back to the simple question - How can you control rogue journalists? I mean, lets be honest there will be rogues because its all about ratings and thus advertising and thus money? You need rules, and this incident will be used by PRDM to push through the Broadcast Bill, or at least used as an excuse. Now, the argument that NDTV and CNN-IBN will use is that it would be unfair to bring them under the purview of this act and governments that don't like these channels such as Mr Modi's will use this act to crack down upon them. Which is a very valid fear. This bill will also put in a a lot of needless bureaucracy. But you do need some sort of standards council where in case of conflict such things can be vetted - what is in the public good, what legal recourse people should take, heck, what standards should be followed! I don't believe Tehelka's and India TV's 'Honey trap' system is fair and is open to huge amounts of abuse - like Tehelka's relentless pursuit of politicians of a certain party.
But, things can't be this wild. To use an analogy - could the aviation boom in India happened without Air Traffic Control. You would not want pilots to compete with each other to land on the runway first and SpiceJet and Indigo chaps running their airlines like a Blueline Bus service (Delhi-wallah's will understand) ramming pedestrians left, right and centre. But, the Broadcast Bill is a bit draconian and the TV channels are saying that we don't want any rules at all. That is clearly an untenable situation, a compromise needs to be found. What it will be I have no clue, but honestly, the sooner it is found the better.
On another note, there is a strong rumour doing the rounds that Rajiv Verma, CEO, HT Media has quit/bee fired. If true, you really have to wonder what the hell is going on in that group! First the Editor and now the CEO. Phoren-Returns not working too well, I wonder if the Jain's, their managers and editors are sniggering!