According to a report by Bar and Bench, the Supreme Court on Friday said television networks in India are dividing society because they compete for viewers by sensationalising news and acting as directed by their funders.
The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) and the Central government were questioned by a bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna about how to regulate such broadcasts.
“Channels are basically competing with each other. They sensationalize it. How do you control this? Freedom of speech and expression is important. Problem with freedom is it is about the audience. Can the audience dish out or understand the agenda. Agenda is serving someone else. Then there is money behind the channel. The point also is who puts money, they will dictate,” Justice Joseph remarked. Such channels are creating fissures in society, the bench added.
“When you claim freedom of speech and expression, you must act like you deserve it. Otherwise what dignity is left for us,” Justice Joseph remarked.
The Court also advocated harsh penalties for news anchors who engage in or support hate speech.
“Thus, if fine is there on anchors they will know that their is a price to pay for this. Anchors can be taken off (air) too,” the Court said.
In response, the Modi Government announced that it would change the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in a comprehensive manner to address hate speech.
“We are contemplating a separate amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code. That is the stand of the Union of India,” Additional Solicitor General (ASG) KM Nataraj submitted on behalf of the Central government.
The Court was hearing a batch of pleas seeking steps to be taken against hate speech incidents.