I&B ministry proposes broadcasting services regulation bill

New Delhi: The government has proposed a broadcasting services (regulation) bill that provides for a consolidated framework to regulate broadcasting services, including over-the-top (OTT) content and digital news.

The bill, proposed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, seeks to replace the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and other policy guidelines that currently govern the broadcasting sector in the country.

The Ministry has sought feedback and comments on the bill from a range of stakeholders, including domain experts, broadcasting service providers and the general public over the next 30 days.

The bill streamlines regulatory processes, expands its scope to cover over-the-top (OTT) content and digital news, and introduces contemporary definitions and provisions for emerging technologies. It seeks to provide content evaluation committees and broadcasting advisory council for self-regulation, different programming and advertising codes for different broadcasting network operators, accessibility measures for people with disabilities, and statutory penalties.

In a statement, the ministry said the bill addresses the need to consolidate and update regulatory provisions for various broadcasting services under one legislative framework. This measure streamlines the regulatory process, making it more efficient and modern. It extends its regulatory scope to include over-the-top (OTT) and digital news and current affairs content currently regulated through the IT Act, 2000 and regulations made thereunder.

To keep pace with emerging technologies and services, the bill introduces definitions of contemporary broadcasting terms and incorporates provisions for emerging broadcasting technologies. The introduction of ‘content evaluation committees’ also improves self-regulation and develops the existing Inter-Departmental Committee into a wider and more participatory ‘Broadcasting Advisory Council’.

It allows a differentiated approach to Program Codes and Ads across different services and requires self-classification from broadcasters and strong access control measures to restricted content.

The bill addresses the specific needs of people with disabilities by providing for the issuance of comprehensive accessibility guidelines.

It introduces statutory penalties such as advisory, warning, censure or monetary penalties for operators and broadcasters. There is still provision for imprisonment and/or fines, but only for very serious offences, which ensures a fair approach to regulation. Monetary penalties and fines are related to the financial capacity of the entity, taking into account their investment and turnover to ensure fairness and equity.

The bill also includes provisions for infrastructure sharing among broadcast network operators and the carriage of platform services. In addition, it streamlines the Right of Way to address relocation and changes more effectively, and establishes a structured dispute resolution mechanism.

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Updated: 10 November 2023, 05:14 PM IST

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