6 Most Important Relationship between Government and Press

1. The guiding principle in this matter was laid down exactly hundred years ago by Delane, Editor of the Times, London, in words which have become famous.

2. Replying to a declaration by Lord Derby in the House of Lords that “in these days as the English Press aspires to share the influence of the statesman, so also must it share in the responsibilities of the statesman”, the Times, under Delane’s editorship, wrote:—

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“If the first of these principles be established, the second follows as a matter of course, and we of all men are last disposed to lower the proper functions or to deny the responsibilities and the power which may derive from the confidence of the public.”

“But be that power more or less, we cannot admit that its purpose is to share the labours of statesmen, or that it is bound by the same limitation, the same duties, and the same liabilities as that of the Ministers of the Crown.

The purpose and duties of the two powers are constantly separate, generally independent, and sometimes diametrically opposite. The dignity and the freedom of the press are travelled from the moment it accepts an ancillary position.

To perform its duties with entire independence, the press can enter into no close or binding alliances with statesmen of the day, nor can it surrender its permanent interests to the convenience of the ephemeral power of any Government….”

3. Relationship between the Press and the Government in the larger sense of the effect of governmental policy and action on the freedom of the press is dealt with in earlier parts of this memorandum.

What is attempted here is to examine the relationship in what may be called the administrative sense.

The problem is one of machinery best suited for the establishment of channels through which the press could be kept informed of governmental plans and decisions and Government may be kept in touch with trends of thought and opinion among the general mass of the people, as distinguished from special economic, social or political interests.

4. Such points of contact between the Government and the Press are provided by correspondents and reporters meeting Ministers or Secretaries both at the Centre and in the States. Press conferences provide the occasion for Ministers or Secretaries to explain official policies and policy decisions.

Information bureau or public relations officers are other agencies intended to supply correspondents and reporters with official releases and explanatory material of the normal kind. Some aspects of this are dealt with later in this section under Special Correspondents. In some states, Press Consultative Committees are in existence.

Their functions, however, are not precisely defined. In one State it would appear that the Chief Minister made use of the Committee to urge pressmen to create what he described as enlightened public opinion in support of his Government’s taxation measures. This brings up the question where the line is to be drawn between consultation and appeal for assistance.

5. The basic questions for consideration may be posed as follows:

Should there be liaison between government and the Press at these levels? If there should be, by what method can it be maintained?

On any liaison machinery that is established, should there be representatives of the profession as a whole or of any class thereof?

Is the present advisory system suitable? How well has it worked so far?

6. The general view of working journalists is that the press advisory system, as it is, has been unsatisfactory. It was essentially a wartime device introduced by a foreign regime, whose interest rarely extended beyond maintenance of peace and order.

Its weakness is mainly in its composition. Its members represent either purely proprietary or managerial interests or evenly balanced as to be ineffective in practice. Adequate representation is not provided for practicing journalists.

The result is that problems are not judged solely with reference to their professional implications. The Federation has demanded that the press advisory system be scrapped and in its place the press consultative system be tried with suitable changes as regards membership, so that working journalists may have adequate representation.

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