New Delhi: "Self regulation" as practised by the electronic media is a "ploy" to escape accountability, Press Council of India (PCI) chairperson Markandey Katju on Wednesday claimed and favoured bringing them under the ambit of the media watchdog.

"Everybody is accountable to people but media people say we should not be accountable. We will practice self regulation.... Self regulation is no regulation. It is an oxymoron. It is a deliberate ploy so that there is no regulation," he said.

Katju was speaking at a conference organised at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication here.

The PCI chief said that he had proposed that the Press Council should be expanded to include 20 representatives of the electronic media industry and the body be named as Media Council and wondered what objection people had to this suggestion.

He said that the media often did not highlight the real issues like poverty and malnutrition that the country is facing.

Katju said that the media created a hype around certain events like the Anna Hazare anti corruption protests which often did not reach any conclusion.

Katju said that he was the person who had strongly taken up the cause of freedom of expression on several occasions. He said but he is criticised when he says that freedom is coupled with responsibility.

He said that paid news and other evils were widespread yet it was being ignored.

Katju said that he wanted regulation and not control.

Senior journalist and former Editor in chief of 'The Hindu' N Ram said that he took Justice Katju's "critique" very seriously. He said that 'The Hindu' followed a policy of appointing an independent ombudsman which other organizations could also follow.

"Today there is manipulation of news and content, there is dumbing down, there is trivialisation, the Katju critique is very important," Ram said. He also stressed the need to counter the prevalence of the unethical practice of 'paid news'.

Managing Editor of Headlines Today Rahul Kanwal said that government mandated regulation is a "terrible idea" that should be avoided at all costs.

He said the measures that the government is now taking to increase the safety of people in Delhi was because it heard the message on the street through the media.

Kanwal said that the self regulation mechanism that had been set up by the electronic news media - News Broadcasters Standards Authority (NBSA) - was already playing an important role and had on occasions given verdicts against certain channels.

He said that because of NBSA, the feeling of responsibility had increased in the newsroom. He said that during the coverage of Delhi gangrape case and related protests, media had not followed the victim's family for interviews and had been responsible in its coverage.

Justice M N Venkatchaliah said that while there were certain disagreements, there seemed to be a general agreement that there should be some kind of regulation of the media and that it should be not be by the government.

(Agencies)

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