NEW DELHI: The Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Friday released a draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill to replace the 30-year old Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995. Stakeholders fear the government wants to control the industry through this Bill.
It has invited comments and objections within 30 days on the email firstname.lastname@example.org as it will consolidate the legal framework for the entire broadcasting sector, provide new programme and advertisement codes and setting up of a broadcast advisoy council to replace the inter-departmental committee. It envisages penalty structure linked to the financial capacity.
The Bill seeks to address the technological advances in new platforms such as DTH, IPTV, OTT and various integrated models.
With the digitization of the broadcasting sector, especially in cable TV, there is a growing need to streamline the regulatory framework, the ministry said. This involves ensuring ease of doing business and enhancing adherence to the Programme Code and Advertisement Code by the broadcasters and Distribution Platform Operators. It said recognizing the need for a more cohesive approach, the existing fragmented regulatory framework is required to be replaced with a new, comprehensive law. The Bill streamlines regulatory processes, extends its purview to cover the Over-the-Top (OTT) content and digital news, and introduces contemporary definitions and provisions for emerging technologies. It seeks to provide for Content Evaluation Committees and a Broadcast Advisory Council for self-regulation, different program and advertisement code for different Broadcasting Network Operators, Accessibility measures for persons with disabilities, and statutory penalties, etc.
Strengthens the Self-Regulation Regime: It enhances self-regulation with the introduction of ‘Content evaluation committees’ and evolves the existing Inter-Departmental Committee into a more participative and broader ‘Broadcast Advisory Council’.
The draft Bill introduces statutory penalties such as: advisory, warning, censure, or monetary penalties, for operators and broadcasters. Provision for imprisonment and/or fines remains, but only for very serious offenses, ensuring a balanced approach to regulation. Equitable Penalties: Monetary penalties and fines are linked to the financial capacity of the entity, taking into account their investment and turnover to ensure fairness and equity.
Infrastructure Sharing, Platform Services and Right of Way: The bill also includes provisions for infrastructure sharing among broadcasting network operators and carriage of platform services.
Further, it streamlines the Right of Way section to address relocation and alterations more efficiently, and establishes a structured dispute resolution mechanism.