A cross-party parliamentary committee will look into Britain’s landmark Leveson Inquiry report on the “culture, practices and ethics of the press” on Monday for “takeaways” that could be applied to India on issues ranging from regulation to media ownership.
Justice Leveson’s recommendations had called for a new law to back an “independent regulatory body” with real teeth after probing Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World, whose hacking of a murdered schoolgirl’s phone had become a major scandal in 2012.
The consultative committee for the information and broadcasting ministry would discuss the report for the first time, although a standing committee had made a reference about it earlier, a senior official said.
While “regulation” alone would not be the focus, the Leveson report could hold lessons for the Indian media landscape on complex issues of paid news, press-politician relationship, media and the police, and cross-media proprietorship, the official said.
Paid news is described as content that has been sponsored or paid for by a client, but not disclosed as such to readers.
Leveson’s 2,000-page report, damning for much of the British press, for example, noted that press behaviour often “wreaked havoc” on the lives of ordinary people. In the Indian context, reporting on terror and crime cases and its impact on families of the accused could be studied in the light of Leveson’s findings.
India has adopted a largely “self-regulatory approach”, which means the media have their own oversight panels.
In its May 2013 report, a parliamentary standing committee had sought to make a case for a statutory regulator for both print and electronic media.
The committee had called on the I&B ministry and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to take “concerted, comprehensive and swift action” on cross-media ownership, with appropriate rules to restrict cross-holdings.
The Press Council of India, while adjudicating paid news cases between 2009 and 2010 and 2012-13 found that of the 40 complaints made to it, newspapers were “warned/censured for having indulged in paid news” in 17 cases, the report had said.