First Press Commission (1952-54):
The first Press Commission was formed under the Chairmanship of Justice J. S. Rajadhyakhsa on 23rd September 1952 by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to inquire into the state of the Press in India. Some of the other members of the 11-member working group were Dr. C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyer, Acharya Narendra Deo, Dr. Zakir Hussain, and Dr. V.K.V. Rao. It was asked to look into factors, which influence the establishment and maintenance of high standards of journalism in India.
The Commission inquired into the control, management and ownership, the financial structure as well as other important aspects of the newspaper industry in the country. The Commission, after a careful and detailed study, concluded that there should be indigenisation of both capital and the staff especially at the higher levels and it was highly desirable that proprietorial interests in daily and weekly newspapers should vest predominantly in Indian hands.
After considering the recommendations of the Press Commission and the Note submitted by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, the Union Cabinet adopted a Resolution on 13 September, 1955, which became the basic policy document in regard to the Press in India. The resolution is as follows:-
“The Cabinet considered the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s note dated May 4, 1955, and was of the view that so far as the ownership of newspapers and periodicals by nationals of other countries was concerned, the problem was not a very serious one as there were only a few such newspapers and periodicals. The Cabinet, therefore, felt that no action needs to be taken in regard to these newspapers and periodicals but that no foreign-owned newspaper or periodical should, in future, be permitted to be published in India. The Cabinet, however, agreed that the other recommendation of the Commission that foreign newspapers and periodicals, which dealt mainly with news and current affairs, should not be allowed to bring out Indian editions, should be accepted in principle.
During the past 46 years since the above Resolution came into effect, no foreign newspaper or periodical has been allowed to be published from India nor has any foreign investment in the domestic print media sector been permitted.
However, in the new context of globalization, the demand for foreign participation and investment in the print media has been raised by a section of the newspaper industry. In the public debate which has taken place on this issue, the opinion of the print media has been divided. Since the issue has far reaching consequences for the Press in India, the Committee decided to take up this subject for a detailed study. A public notice was issued.
The commission was appointed because after independence the role of the press was changing from a mission to business. It found that there was a great deal of scurrilous writing often directed against communities or groups, of indecency and vulgarity and personal attacks on individuals. It also noted that yellow journalism was on the increase in the country and was not particularly confined to any area or language. The commission, however, found that the well established, newspapers on the whole, had maintained a high standard of journalism.
It remarked that whatever the law relating the press may be, there would still be a large quantity of objectionable journalism, which, though not falling within the purview of the law, would still require some checking. It felt that the best way of maintaining professional standards of journalism would be to bring into existence a body of people principally connected with the industry whose responsibility would be to arbitrate on doubtful points and to ensure the punishment of any one guilty of infraction of good journalistic behavior. An important recommendation of the commission was the setting up of a Statutory Press Commission at the national level, consisting of press people and lay members. Its recommendation and the action taken can be summed up as follows:
• To protect the freedom of the press and to maintain high standards of journalism, a press council should be established.
The press council of India was established on July 4, 1966 which started functioning from November 16 (on this date, National Press Day is celebrated) 1966.
• To prepare the account of the press and the position of every year, there should be appointment of the Registrar of Newspaper for India (RNI).
It was also accepted and RNI was appointed in July 1956.
• Price-page schedule should be introduced.
It was also accepted in 1956.
• For maintaining a cordial relationship between the government and the Press, a Press Consultative Committee should be constituted.
It was accepted and a Press Consultative Committee was constituted on 22nd September
• Working Journalists Act should be implemented.
The government implemented this and in 1955 the working journalist and other newspaper employees (conditions of services) and miscellaneous Provisions Act was set up.
• It recommended establishment of a fact-finding Committee to evaluate the financial position of the newspapers and news agencies.
A Fact Finding Committee was set up on 14th April 1972. It submitted its report on 14th January 1975.
• For protecting the main principles of the freedom of the press and to help the newspapers against monopolistic tendencies, a Newspaper Financial Corporation should be constituted.
It was accepted in principle and on 4th December 1970, a Bill was also presented in the Lok Sabha, but it lapsed.
Second Press Commission:
The government of India constituted the Second Press Commission on May 29, 1978. The second press commission wanted the press to be neither a mindless adversary nor an unquestioning ally. The commission wanted the press to play a responsible role in the development process. The press should be widely accessible to the people if it is to reflect their aspirations and problems.
The question of urban bias too has received attention of the commission. The commission said that for development to take place, internal stability was as important as safeguarding national security. The commission also highlighted the role (and, therefore, responsibility) of the press in preventing and deflating communal conflict.
Both press commissions of India included several respectable members from the press. The recommendation of the first press commission for the first time provides idea of what a responsible press should be. The second press commission formulated in a clear manner that development should be the central focus of the press in a country, which is building itself to become a self-reliant and prosperous society. The commission declared that a responsible press could also be a free press and vice versa. Freedom and responsibility are complimentary but not contradictory terms. The main recommendations can be briefed as follows:
• An attempt should be made to establish a cordial relation between the government and the press.
• For the development of small and medium newspaper, there should be establishment of newspaper Development Commission.
• Newspaper industries should be separated from industries and commercial interests.
• There should be appointment of Board of Trustees between editors and proprietors of the newspaper.
• Price-page schedule should be introduced.
• There should be a fixed proportion of news and advertisements in small, medium and big newspaper.
• Newspaper industries should be relieved from the impact of foreign capital.
• No predictions should be published in newspapers and magazines.
• The misuse of the image of the advertisement should be discontinued.
• The government should prepare a stable Advertisement Policy.
• The Press Information Bureau should be reconstituted.
• Press laws should be amended.