The Press Council of India is no more a toothless tiger, believes Publisher and Former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, N Ram. The reason for it being its new Chairperson and the emerging debates around journalistic ethics and regulations.
N Ram credits the emerging discussions on Indian news media to the new Chairperson of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju. “He has triggered off a debate and 90 per cent of people seem to support his views on post-globalisation journalism and eroding ethics of journalism in India,” said Ram.
He shared that a strong chairman alone cannot bring about changes and that the council needs to be strengthened significantly. “I was one of those who argued that news media doesn’t need external regulation, but self regulation. But after the evidence of paid news, particularly the disturbing news that it continues to happen defiantly, there is a need to strengthen the Press Council of India.”
In Punjab, paid news has been documented and it has been defiant which means it has been going on, he said. According to Ram, the business of paid news rampantly continues in several parts of India and that there was enough evidence to establish it. When asked whether broadcast news should also fall under the ambit of the Press Council of India, as argued by Justice Katju, he said, “It needs a widespread debate. There is a difference between both the media. Print is about news media, but news constitutes close to seven or eight per cent of the Indian broadcast industry.”
On his role in The Hindu
Ram continues to remain a member of the board of The Hindu and publisher of the newspaper. Though he is not involved in day-to-day editorial activities of the company, he continues to take an active part in the business side of the company. When asked about his agenda for The Hindu, he told , “The board has some important responsibilities. On the business side a lot needs to be done. I no longer participate in the editorial operations. We have insulated the editorial process from shareholder intervention.”
On TOI vs The Hindu ad war
Ram supports the retaliation of The Hindu to the advertisement of the Times of India in Chennai, but calls it ‘a very small part of the play’. Ram clarifies that the advertisement that almost named the Times of India in its TVC attacking its Page 3 journalism, was a marketing initiative, partially influenced by the editorial division. “The Times of India published a campaign and this was a response to that,” Ram clarified. He also said that the attacking advertisement was consulted with the editorial team, before it went on air. “I had no problems with it. Though I didn’t initiate the campaign, once it came, it was clear in their (marketing team’s) judgment that there should be a response to it. I think it was needed,” he said