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'TV channels messed up, need regulatory body'

After public outrage over television coverage of Mumbai terror attack, a parliamentary panel on Friday asked the government to put in place an effective regulatory mechanism for the media for covering such incidents.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2008 00:33 IST

After public outrage over television coverage of Mumbai terror attack, a parliamentary panel on Friday asked the government to put in place an effective regulatory mechanism for the media for covering such incidents.

“The live footage shown by television channels could have been used as free intelligence input by the perpetrators sitting far away, who allegedly guided the attackers through satellite/mobile phones,” the Rajya Sabha Committee on Petitions said in its report.

Security forces had told the Information and Broadcasting Ministry that the terrorists were getting inputs about security operations from Pakistan on basis of the live television coverage. Even External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee reiterated this fact in Parliament on Thursday.

The committee headed by senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu went to the extent of saying that the live feed of commandoes being air dropped directly endangered the success of operations and safety of hostages as well as security forces.

Even though the television channels defended their coverage saying a lot has been learnt from the incident, the parliamentary committee strongly advocated regulation by the government in situations where sensitive information required to be “handled carefully”.

“The channels failed to self-regulate themselves,” the committee said and asked the government to put in place Broadcasting Regulatory Authority under an Act of Parliament.

Self-regulation is an ideal situation, but it may not be effective to regulate the media particularly in the scenario of
growing competition among the channels for supremacy in the business of ratings, it said.

The I&B ministry had found some degree of self-regulation in coverage of Mumbai attacks, but had said that it was not enough. The News Broadcasters Association has already declared to have an self-regulatory “emergency protocol” for covering riots, terror attacks, hijacking and hostage situations.

“We have been responsible in covering Mumbai attacks and I assure we will follow the emergency protocol,” said Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief of IBN Group.