The Press Council of India (PCI) is a statutory quasi-judicial administration that has been instituted under the Press Council Act of 1978 by the Parliament.
The PCI has been instituted with the following objectives:
- Preserving and safeguarding the freedom of the press and newspaper industry
- Maintaining and enhancing the worth and quality of newspapers as well as the news agencies operating in India
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Establishment of the PCI
The PCI was initially established in 1966 under the Indian Press Council Act of 1965 on the recommendation of the first Press Commission.
The Indian Press Council Act of 1965 was repealed on the formation of the Press Council Act 1979. During the emergency, the PCI was temporarily dismantled. PCI was re-established in 1979 by the Press Council Act of 1978 with the objective of safeguarding press freedom and maintaining India’s newspapers and news agencies.
Under Section 4 of the Act, the PCI is a corporate body with a common seal and perpetual succession. They can sue or can be sued.
Structure and Composition of PCI
The Press Council Act, under Section 5 states the composition and structure of the council. The PCI shall be headed by the Chairman followed by:
Thirteen working Journalists
- Seven working journalists
- Six editors
- One member from the News Agency,
- Six members indulged in the Media Management
- Three members partaking special knowledge about other fields
Finally, five members of the Parliament
- Three from Lok Sabha
- Two from Rajya Sabha
- The Chairman of PCI is to be elected by three people:
- Chairman of Rajya Sabha
- Speaker of Lok Sabha
- A member selected by the PCI
Therefore, The Press Council of India shall contain 28 members as per the Act.
Functions of the Council
Section 13 of the Press Council Act affirms the functions of the Press Council of India. The PCI has been formed to perform the following functions:
- Assist newspapers and newspaper agencies to maintain their autonomy
- Accumulate a code of conduct for newspapers and their agencies, also for the journalists with high professional standards;
- Stimulate the sense of responsibility and public service among journalists;
- Examine any change that may limit the availability and dissemination of news of public interest and importance;
- Review incidents in which any publication or news agency in India has received help from foreign sources, as submitted to it by the Central Government;
- Encourage proper functional relationships among people indulging in the production and publication sectors of the newspapers;
- Promote the creation of such common service for the delivery and transmission of news to newspapers;
- Provide facilities for appropriate education and training of people in the journalistic industry;
- Conduct research on foreign publications, including those published by any embassy or other representative of a foreign state in India, as well as their distribution and influence.
Powers of the Council
Section 14 and 15 of the Act asserts the powers to censure—some of the other general powers given to the council are as follows:
- A journalist or an editor can file a complaint with the PCI in case of any concern regarding professional misconduct or ethical violation by a journalist.
- The PCI is the investigating authority that can file a complaint.
- PCI can summon witnesses and demand the production of copies of public records.
- They can issue warnings and condemn the faulty person, whether a journalist, newspaper, news agency, or even an editor.
- The decisions of the PCI are final and cannot be challenged in court.
Working of the PCI
Section 20 of the Press Council Act states that the PCI has to prepare an annual report. This report shall provide them with a summary of all activities taking place in the preceding year. This summary shall mention the standards of newspapers, news agencies, and journalists, along with the factors affecting them. Furthermore, an audited statement of accounts shall be attached to the final report under Section 22 of the Press Council Act.
This annual report is to be forwarded to the Central Government, and the government shall forward the same to both houses of the Parliament.
Section 21 of the Press Council Act urges the PCI to prepare an interim report at any time of the year on request. This report shall constitute a summary of activities in that particular year, only of activities that are to be considered, which holds public importance.
The Interim Report shall also be submitted to the Central Government, who will then forward it to both the houses of the Parliament.
Current News on PCI
In 2021, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting provided a set of guidelines for intermediaries and a digital ethics code.
These guidelines have been formulated for delineating the responsibilities of online/digital news publishers. This set of rules and guidelines also includes the code of ethics along with the norms of journalistic conduct that the PCI has framed.
This framework has been constituted in the new Information Technology Rules announced in 2021.
Media is the main source of information for the general public. Therefore, the Press Council Act, of 1978 is critical. The PCI not only assists newspapers and newspaper agencies to maintain their autonomy but has been formed to preserve the freedom of the press and maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India.
Is the Press Council of India a statutory body?
Yes, the PCI is a statutory quasi-judicial administration instituted under the Press Council Act, 1978.
What is the Indian Press Council Act?
The Indian Press Council Act was formed in 1965. This is the initial Act that was formed to protect the freedom and autonomy of the press and preserve the worth and caliber of newspapers in India.
How many members constitute the PCI?
The PCI, formed under the Act, consists of 28 members headed by the Chairman of the Council. The Chairman of PCI is to be elected by the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, the Speaker of Lok Sabha, and a member selected by the PCI.
Can the Press Council of India form its rules and regulations?
Under Sections 25 and 26 of the Press Council Act, 1978, the Council has the power to form its rules and regulations.