Jayan Jose Thomas in the Economic and Political Weekly:
While the growth of gross domestic product in every sub-sector of the Indian economy accelerated during the second half of the 2000s, employment growth in most sectors other than construction decelerated.
“Manufacturing employment in the country fell and employment growth slowed down in most constituents of the services sector. The new jobs generated were predominantly in rural construction. The slow progress in the diversification of India’s employment structure has led to large-scale withdrawal of women from the labour force, with the number of women thus ‘missing’ being as large as the population of Brazil.”
Ernest Hemingway’s home at Key West, Florida, a New York Times feature informs us, ‘teems with six-toed cats — the so-called Hemingway cats — who for generations have stretched out on Hemingway’s couch, curled up on his pillow and mugged for the Papa-razzi. Tour guides recount over and over how the gypsy cats descend from Snowball, a fluffy white cat who was a gift to the Hemingways. Seafaring legend has it that polydactyl cats (those with extra toes) bring a bounty of luck, which certainly explains their own pampered good fortune. But it seems the charms of even 45 celebrated six-toed cats have proved powerless against one implacable foe: federal regulators’. Read on:
‘In a 2011 recording obtained by The Washington Post, Fox News’s K.T. McFarland, acting as Fox News president Roger Ailes’s proxy, talks to then-General David Petraeus about his presidential ambitions for 2012 and beyond, seeming to encourage the general to think twice about running for the White House’:
Justice Markandey Katju, chairman of the Press Council of India, has progressively articulated criticisms of the Indian press and news television and highlighted their major weaknesses and failings. He has justly rejected self-serving opposition to independent and credible regulation of the news media in India. However, he has got the key Leveson recommendations all wrong. Based on this misreading, he presses the following demand for regulating the Indian news media (refer ‘Wake up and smell the ink’, The Hindu, December 4, 2012, Op-Ed (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/wake-up-and-smell-the-ink/article4161090.ece):
‘Lord Justice Leveson has called for the setting up of an independent statutory regulator of the media, which is precisely what I have been pleading for since long. However I have clarified that: 1. I want regulation, not control, of the media, the difference between the two being that whereas in control there is no freedom, in regulation there is freedom but subject to reasonable restrictions in the public interest. 2. This regulation should not be by the government or any individual but by an independent statutory authority (which can be called the Media Council) and 3. Most of the members of the proposed Media Council (which should have representatives from the broadcast media also on it) should be mediapersons, not appointed by the government but elected by media organisations. This media council should have punitive powers including the power to suspend licences and impose fines, but such punishment should be given by the majority decision of the Media Council, and not by the chairman alone. This is really a form of self-regulation and judgment by one’s peers (as is done by the Bar Council).’
Lord Justice Leveson has not called for ‘an independent statutory regulator of the media’ — far from it. He has certainly not recommended a licensing system for the UK press (fortunately, the press in India, unlike broadcast television, functions under a registration, and not a licensing, regime).
What Leveson has recommended is a clever scheme of voluntary and genuinely independent self-regulation of the press backed by law (with ‘a statutory underpinning’), which is completely different from what Justice Katju proposes. Leveson builds upon the offer of the UK newspaper industry to give the self-regulatory body teeth, including the power to levy substantial fines on newspapers joining the scheme. What he rejects out of hand is having the newspaper industry staff, not to mention dominate, the self-regulatory body (‘marking its own homework’) or allowing politicians to have a presence in the regulatory body. The law comes in essentially to recognize and validate ‘demonstrable independence’ from both the newspaper industry and politicians.
The Leveson scheme, which envisages contractual arrangements for membership in the independent regulatory system by individual newspapers, also seeks to provide incentives for membership, including an inexpensive arbitration system that might help mitigate, if not prevent, costs and damages in civil actions in courts.
Note the striking contrast to the status and membership of the Press Council of India (PCI). The PCI has been established by statute, that is, by the Press Council of India Act 1978 (http://presscouncil.nic.in/act.htm), but everyone knows it lacks teeth. The chairman is always a retired Supreme Court judge but 20 of the 28 other members of the PCI are drawn from within the newspaper industry and five of the remaining eight are Members of Parliament. The irony is that a statutorily established body, set up to with the stated purpose of ‘preserving the freedom of the Press and of maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India’, is not independent of either the newspaper industry or politicians. The Media Council proposed by Justice Katju will also have an overwhelming majority of its members drawn from within the media industry, which will be allowed to ‘mark its own homework’. Neither the PCI as it exists nor the Media Council proposed by Justice Katju can claim to be independent and credible by the Leveson test.
It is important to note that the voluntary and independent self-regulatory body recognized or validated by a statutorily sanctioned process in the Leveson proposal would have no serving editors or politicians and would have ‘a substantial majority demonstrably independent of the press and of the politicians’.
Only in the case of those who refuse to join the independent self-regulatory system with a statutory underpinning has Leveson recommended, perhaps out of frustration, a regime of regulation by an external regulator, possibly Ofcom — the widely accepted independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, including broadcast television. (Leveson holds this threat of Ofcom regulation particularly against Richard Desmond, owner of Express Newspapers and founder of Northern & Shell, which publishes various celebrity magazines, the national newspapers Daily Express and Daily Star, and also owns Channel 5 as well as Portland TV, whose stable includes several adult TV channels.) This feature of the Leveson scheme is not likely to find acceptance in the UK and the question of what arrangement can be made to enforce a defiant newspaper organization’s accountability to codified standards and to the public remains open.
Here are the essentials of the Leveson scheme as explained in the statement made by Lord Justice Leveson on release of his report on November 29, 2012 (link to the text of his remarks and to the YouTube video below):
‘…Any model with editors on the main Board is simply not independent of the industry to anything approaching the degree required to warrant public confidence. It is still the industry marking its own homework. Nor is the model proposed stable or robust for the longer-term future.
‘The press needs to establish a new regulatory body which is truly independent of industry leaders and of Government and politicians. It must promote high standards of journalism, and protect both the public interest and the rights and liberties of individuals. It should set and enforce standards, hear individual complaints against its members and provide a fair, quick and inexpensive arbitration service to deal with civil law claims.
‘The Chair and the other members of the body must be independent and appointed by a fair and open process. It must comprise a majority of members who are independent of the press. It should not include any serving editor or politician. That can be readily achieved by an appointments panel which could itself include a current editor but with a substantial majority demonstrably independent of the press and of politicians. In the Report, I explain who might be involved.
‘Although I make some recommendations in this area, it is absolutely not my role to seek to establish a new press standards code or to decide how an independent self- regulatory body would go about its business. As to a standards code, I recommend the involvement of an industry committee (which could involve serving editors). That committee would advise the regulatory body and there should be a process of public consultation. In my report, I also address the need for incentives to be put in place to encourage all in the industry to sign up to this new regulatory system.
‘Guaranteed independence, long-term stability, and genuine benefits for the industry, cannot be realised without legislation. So much misleading speculation and misinformation has been spread about the prospect of new legislation that I need to make a few things very clear. I am proposing it only for the narrow purpose of recognising a new independent self-regulatory system. It is important to be clear what this legislation would not do; it would not establish a body to regulate the press; that is for the press itself to do.
‘So what would this legislation achieve? Three things. It would enshrine, for the first time, a legal duty on the Government to protect the freedom of the press. Secondly, it would provide an independent process to recognise the new self-regulatory body and thereby reassure the public of its independence and efficacy. Thirdly, it would provide new and tangible benefits for the press. As members of the body, newspapers could show that they act in good faith and have sought to comply with standards based on the public interest. Decisions of the new recognised regulator could create precedents which could, in turn, help a court in civil actions. In addition, the existence of a formally recognised, free arbitration system is likely to provide powerful arguments as to costs should a claimant decide not to use that free system or, conversely, if a newspaper is not a member. In my view, the benefits of membership should be obvious to all.
‘This is not, and cannot reasonably or fairly be characterised as, statutory regulation of the press. I am proposing independent regulation of the press organised by the press itself with a statutory process to support press freedom, provide stability and guarantee for the public that this new body is independent and effective.
‘I firmly believe that these recommendations for self-regulation are in the best interests of the public and the press; they have not been influenced by any political or other agenda but solely by what I believe is fair and right for everyone. What is more, given the public interest role of which the press is rightly proud, I do not think that either the victims I have heard from, or the public in general, would accept anything less.’