Cutting across the ideological divide, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) on Wednesday supported broadcasters against proposed measures to control the electronic media in emergency situations and asked the government to evolve a consensus.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said “no hasty steps” should be taken for media regulation and suggested “a common approach” before any step is taken in this direction.
"Our party is of the opinion that no hasty steps should be taken for media regulation," Karat said.
The CPI-M leader stressed that besides the self-regulatory mechanism put in place by news channels, “co-regulation” was needed through the establishment of an independent regulatory body.
"Till then, no steps should be taken to empower the government and the administration to further regulate the news channels," he added.
BJP president Rajnath Singh also underlined the need for evolving a consensus over the proposed amendments to the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, which are being seen by broadcasters an attempt to muzzle the freedom of the press.
“The parliament will be meeting shortly. They should evolve a consensus and consult all political parties before proceeding with it,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a function at the party headquarters.
Acting convener of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Sharad Yadav echoed the need for a collective approach. “The government can't take a unilateral decision on such an issue,” he said.
The expression of support comes a day after editors of top television channels met Rajnath Singh and Karat over the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's alleged move to gag the electronic media.
The Congress party sought to downplay the controversy saying no decision had been taken so far.
“The government is negotiating with the News Broadcasters Association. I am sure they will reach an early conclusion,” said Manish Tewary, spokesperson of the Congress party.
Although the information and broadcasting ministry has yet to unveil these proposals, broadcasters say these could include a plan to provide visuals and footage through a nodal agency in a situation which is deemed "nationally important".
In a joint statement, the editors of leading news channels said Tuesday: “The government's proposed amendment is aimed at reining in media in the name of coverage of anti-terror operations, sex, crimes, narco-analysis footage.”
“The self-regulation attempts which were put in place by the news channels have been completely disregarded by the government and attempts are now being made to completely subjugate the media into virtually perform the role of government public relations wing,” they added.