The Zee-Jindal issue came up in the Lok Sabha during Question Hour on Tuesday with members expressing their concern over unethical practices in the media, including paid news and unfair reporting.
While some members underlined the need for regulating the media, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari maintained that self-regulation was the best option. He offered to have a detailed discussion on the issue and maintained that the government was “ready to abide by the sense of the House” which would emerge from it.
Asaduddin Owaisi of the MIM asked the government if, in the light of the recent confrontation between the Jindal industrial house and Zee TV, it had any plan to put in place a statutory mechanism to look into violations of advertising and programme codes by television channels. Congress MP Naveen Jindal was present, but did not speak on the matter.
Lal Singh of the Congress said: “When some of our members were caught accepting money for asking questions during a sting operation, their membership was terminated...But no action has been taken after this sting operation. The licence of this channel should be cancelled.”
JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said that at a time when even the Prime Minister is sought to be brought under the Lokpal and politicians are being targeted by the media, “there is no one to question” the media.
He said either the Press Council should be given more teeth or it should be wound up. At the same time, he told Tewari, “You cannot put aside the loot of Rs 1.83 lakh crore in coal by delinking this small incident (the Zee-Jindal controversy).”
Tewari said in the course of his reply that “in the first instance, we allow the self-regulatory mechanisms to take route”. A peer review, according to him, would be the best option. His ministry had referred a complaint received over the issue to the News Broadcasters Standards Authority, headed by a former Chief Justice of India.
He said the NBSA has said that the matter is sub judice. “We have a concurrent mechanism called the Inter-Ministerial Committee.”