14 Jan :PM Manmohan Singh on Wednesday assured news broadcasters, who have opposed moves to put restrictions on live coverage of emergency situations like the Mumbai attack, that changes in the Cable TV rules would be taken up only after "widest possible consultation" with all stakeholders.
The respite came on a day editors of major news channels lobbied hard with the political leadership to push their case for withdrawal of the proposed measures.Following up their letter to the Prime Minister opposing any step to "regulate" the media, the editors today held separate meetings with Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition L K Advani, Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and Ahmad Patel, political secretary to Gandhi.
A brief statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said Singh has received several representations from the media agencies regarding the proposed changes in the Cable TV Network Rules "currently under consideration".
"The Prime Minister has assured that the matter will be taken up for finalisation only after the widest possible consultation with all the stakeholders and eliciting their different points of view on the proposed changes," it said.
During their 25-minute meeting, Gandhi assured them that she will take up the matter with the Prime Minister and that freedom of the press will not be allowed to be violated .
After concerns were voiced that the live telecast of the Mumbai strikes had helped the Pakistani terrorists, Government was mulling restrictions on live telecast of such emergency situations and permitting only "authorised feed" to telecast.
In their representation to Singh, the editors said the proposed measures to "gag the electronic media" have caused immense disquiet in the journalistic fraternity and among all those who believe in the freedom of expression.
Representatives of the News Broadcasters Association met SP general secretary Amar Singh and requested him to take up with the PM their concerns over the move to amend the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995.
"The television channel people met me… I personally believe there should be a provision that can prevent enemy nations from accessing sensitive information pertaining to national interest. This could be a issue of debate. However the kind of provision the government has proposed in its note sent to Cabinet Secretariat, can violate freedom of press," he said.
Singh felt that the proposed measure could be misused.
"As per the note prepared by the government, if I go to attend some meeting in my area in UP or if Sonia Gandhi and Rahul go to Amethi or Rae Bareli, then Mayawati’s administration can snatch the cameras of television channels covering the events. This is a strange situation".
"I think the concerns raised by television channel editors are valid and I am with them. I will put their concerns in front of the Prime Minister whenever I meet him, as per my stature, as we are supporting the government and it is surviving because of us," Singh said.
Meanwhile, the Editors Guild of India also written to the Prime Misnister voicing its concerns on the issue.
The CPI(M) cautioned the UPA government against taking any "hasty" step to regulate content in electronic media.