Verma committee: Media guidelines issued

Former Chief Justice of India JS Verma has issued a new protocol for visual media in the country, in the wake of their contemptible coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks. If the proposed set of measures are complied with by the private television entities solemnly, then it would assuredly prevent a repeat of their wanton conduct during 26/11, and after.

Verma, in his report, states:

"News related to armed conflicts and communal violence should be shown with public interest in mind," the guidelines said.

In case of a hostage situation, the guidelines said no details like identity or number of hostages should be telecast.

It also asked broadcasters to avoid unnecessary repetition of archival footage which may agitate the minds of viewers.

"Dignity of those who are killed should be kept in mind while such incidents are telecast," the guidelines read.[Rediff]

The point regarding excessive repetition of archival footage is particularly irrefutable as TV channels have opportunistically broadcast past videos without a mention of "File footage", in a bid to retain viewers. Repeat footage is distressing and the purposes with which it is replayed again and again are beyond comprehension.

The report spells doom for our favourite television anchors as their tragedy-time histrionics will be forcefully subdued and it is certain that a few are expected to be up in arms against the guidelines. Hopefully they will, in all their frivolous opposition of these instructions and rabid pseudo-championing of freedom of speech, at least obey the guidelines. Verma states that self-regulation is essential and the only flawless way of the media living up to its fourth-pillar-of-democracy role. And it is hence upto the mediapersons to eventually protect the larger interests of the people, who are undeniably under their elephantine influence.

Barkha Dutt had written, in impudent defence of her acts, not too long ago:

Should there be an emergency code of dos and donts for the coverage of such crises? We in the media would welcome a framework for sensitive events and are happy to contribute to its construction. But it is important to understand that in the absence of any instructions on site and in the absence of any such framework we broke NO rules. [NDTV]

Isn't this what she would have ransacked a politician for if he/she had dared to indulge in any immoral showing during times of crises? Mediapersons jumped onto the bandwagon of endless opportunism during those three dark days and then have the audacity to justify their actions by blaming the absence of a code of conduct. Where was their own so-called moral self at the time?

The bottomline, and it's a sad one, is that media houses showed as much opportunism as the politicians(Narendra Modi, Manish Tiwari etc) and both combined showed more opportunism than the Indian state and people can bear altogether. In times of crises, if their capitalist mindset seeks profit and profit only and they believe that the nation was "awakened" by their constant reporting of the attacks, then it is a testimony of our times that we have slept all along and needed such factions of society to "wake us up".

LK Advani, the supposed next Prime Minister, praised the role of the media openly in the Lok Sabha yesterday. "They woke us up" and "they did national service" were some statements from the BJP leader. What he forgot was that there was another side to the media coverage, that he probably never cared to explore.

It is disheartening that the people of a superpower-in-waiting come to know their true heroes and defenders at the cost of the lives of those heroes. How morally right is this? How much the better that our heroes do not have to sacrifice their lives in order for us to come to terms with what we are facing day in and day out?

Life just came a full circle.

If you liked this post, you might want to subscribe to the RSS FEEDS



Thursday, December 18, 2008 at 8:11:00 AM PST

The coverage of those three days had the much required effect of driving home to the nation and the government what we are really up against. UAPA and NIA would never have happened otherwise...the TV cameras left the government and other opponents of tough measures to fight terror no place to hide any longer.

Other than that national awakening, as you have observed, there were many instances of irresponsible, competitive reporting that caused many deaths, thanks to the live inputs that terrorists got as a bonus.

It is good to see that some guidelines have finally been put in place. Let us see whether various channels follow them the next time or again find loopholes to claim later that "they broke no rules" - so what if they a number of people killed as a result.

  J P Joshi

Thursday, December 18, 2008 at 8:24:00 AM PST

There was a pressing need of putting some restraint on the media and hopefully this law would plug the loopholes that the media generally exploits. I generally preferred to watch the BBC during those three horrific days, as their reporting was more mature and balanced, although they took most of their video footage from the Indian TV channels. Does the age of the commentators have something to do with this??


Thursday, December 18, 2008 at 8:36:00 AM PST

I think this is a good step forward. I am sure that these guidelines are a start. I do believe we need a television watch dog like the British have - ofcom - where veiwers can complain about television programmes and reporting.. But this is definitely a good step forward.


Thursday, December 18, 2008 at 9:41:00 AM PST

Thank you trail blazer and congrats to you too and all others!

As for the post, the media did act irresponsibly during the crisis.But lets not forget that as an instrument of change,it can be a big and better step.Guidelines are required and I am really pained to see a person I admired(I mean Barkha) speak such lines.How can she be so callous and indifferent. Good post trailblazer-a nice way to sensitize the general public on the issue!


Friday, December 19, 2008 at 12:36:00 AM PST

@J P Joshi
BBC refused to refer to the terrorists as terrorists and used milder terms like militants for them.


Friday, December 19, 2008 at 12:38:00 AM PST

Thanks. I also believe that the media can bring about change and many of their efforts post-26/11 are laudable, but that does not mean we forgive them for their equally shocking lapses during 26/11.


Sunday, December 21, 2008 at 10:28:00 AM PST

trailblazer. thanks for visiting my blog. actually since your blog is not on wordpress commenting is a problem for me . i previously thought of leaving a comment but could not.
but you have a nice blog in making. hope to visit often