Sunday, September 23, 2007

What is the Broadcasting Bill?

Posted online: Saturday, September 22, 2007 at 0000 hrs IST

While the need for a Broadcasting Bill has been talked about since
1997, it was only in 2006 that the UPA Government with Priya Ranjan
Dasmunsi as the Union Information & Broadcasting Minister brought out
the draft for the Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill. The Bill,
said the I&B Ministry, will regulate the broadcast services with
several private TV channels around now. The draft bill, which calls
for the setting up of a separate Broadcast Regulatory Authority of
India (BRAI), has covered four major areas in its ambit, which would
call for major corporate restructuring by media companies—foreign and
domestic—operating in India. These include content, cross media
ownership, subscriptions and live sports feeds. Anubhuti Vishnoi

• What regulations govern TV services as of now?
Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995 is the basic governing
system for all TV channels related issues. However, the Ministry has
been of the view for years now that the increase in the number of TV
channels requires a special set of laws in keeping with the times and
with provision for a regulatory mechanism.

• What is Content Code?
Along with the draft broadcasting Bill, the Ministry has also
formulated a content code to regulate the programme "quality" being
aired by broadcasters and to "protect the consumers interests",
national interests and right to privacy.

• Why is the broadcasting industry against the Bill and the Content Code?
The big issue is the Government's "intention" to control or regulate
programme content. The industry feels that the Government plans to
infringe on their rights as a free media through the two proposed
regulations and says that "draconian" laws will be applied, especially
against news channels, under the ambit of the Bill if it is allowed to
go through. A stringent Content Code and clauses like "national
interest" and right to privacy of a citizen may spell the death knell
for investigative journalism and sting operations for broadcasters.
The other problem with the Bill is that in an age when citizens are
bombarded with news/views through various media (newspapers, cable and
satellite TV, Internet, radio and mobile phones), it seeks to enforce
outdated concepts of the media and dominance as per broadcasters. The
draft Bill, they point out, says that no broadcasting service provider
can own more than 20 per cent of another broadcasting network service
provider. BRAI is also liable to government control, say broadcasters.

• Status of the proposed Bill and Content Code
While the I&B Ministry planned to take the Bill to Parliament this
monsoon session, vehement opposition from the broadcasters has forced
a re-think. So while the Ministry still maintains that it will
definitely get in a regulation, it is consulting stakeholders. The
ministry Content Code may make way for a "self-regulating content
code" being chalked out by the National Broadcasters' Association
(NBA). The draft bill on which various states are also being consulted
still has the ministry and the broadcasters on opposite ends.


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