Terrorizing World – "Enough is enough"

Time to ACT tough . Now !

TV News channels ACT responsibly

Posted by :) on December 6, 2008


TV news channels reject a government advisory on terrorism-related coverage

Think choice, not coercion
The information & broadcasting ministry has issued a dos-and-don’ts advisory on terrorism-related TV coverage. It feels that TV channels — by focusing on “gory” images, “tragedy” and “politician-bashing” — aren’t helping India overcome the Mumbai attacks. In its view, sensationalism may grab eyeballs, but playing on negatives will only gladden terror-mongers. India needs feel-good, not
enfeebling. Hence the need for stories that reassure citizens and highlight the world’s solidarity with India. This advisory has been rejected by news channels, and not without reason.
There’s been criticism of reportage showing gruesome footage or jeopardising commando operations in the rush for ‘breaking news’. Some TV anchors were seen as using a tragic occasion for histrionics and grandstanding. Others were said to fuel public ire against politicians, objectivity be damned. Yet the media as a whole can’t be tarred because of a few excesses. News channels have to perform 24/7 against dog-eat-dog competition. Relative to the print media with its long experience
with trial and error,they’re new kids on the block. Yet they’re fast learners and astonishingly numerous — with 120 news channels, India possibly has the world’s highest number. As opinion-makers, they do have onerous duties. But independent channels can’t function by government counsel, however well-meant. News broadcasters have their own code of ethics. It’s for media watchdogs like the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) to reform or enforce this. Following the sting operations controversy, for instance,NBA guidelines made stings a last resort for news channels. Political rulers sometimes tend to play nanny to the people regarding audio-visual content. Yet given citizens’ right to information, the media can hardly rose-tint unpalatable facts. Finally, consumers of news have a huge array of choices. If you don’t like one telecast, you can switch to another. It’s this free play of market forces that gives the Indian press its vitality, and deepens its ability to catch up with and match up to world standards. Media diversity and freedom, in turn, strengthen democracy.
COUNTER VIEW Take some advice J Sadie Clifford
Predictably, the media is working itself up into an outrage about an advisory issued by the I&B ministry calling for restraint in the coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks and their aftermath. Anybody who watches the rolling news channels will not be surprised to see them shout and scream over this too.
The government has public opinion on its side. Many viewers were disgusted to see the
cameras reveal security details that may have helped the terrorists, showing the airlifting of the NSG team onto the roof, and the angle of their ground assault on the Taj. When an Indian city is under attack from foreign elements wielding machine-guns and bombs, the country is effectively at war, and information becomes a weapon. Allowing the media to give away troop positions becomes a very dangerous act.
We rely on the media to take a serious approach to protecting our troops and our operations, especially during such a serious event as this one. Other countries manage far more restraint whilst employing the same
system of self-censorship as ours. British news did not show anti-terror operations during the 7/7 London bombings, but their defence advisory notices are merely guidance, like ours, without force of law. However, DA notices specifically do not prevent the consequence of any embarrassment to the British government.
This is an indulgence that the Indian govern
ment now begs; an end to politicianbashing. This goes too far, from protecting the military to protecting supposedly accountable politicians is too big a step. Anger has been a genuine public reaction, and the job of the news is to document that reaction.
Yet, equally, news should refrain from whipping up anger, by repeating these violent images. This prurient tendency has been called disaster porn, and research suggests it can add to fear and confusion. Relatives also deserve to be shielded; is there some child now scarred for life after watching on TV a close-up of a family member’s agonised and bloody face? News must be level-headed, not hysterical.
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