Central Govt Proposes Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill; What Is Its Aim?

New Delhi: The Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I & B) has proposed the Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill 2023 to provide a consolidated framework which can regulate broadcasting services, including over-the-top (OTT) content and digital news.

The new bill seeks to replace the existing Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and other policy guidelines which govern India’s broadcasting sector.

The I & B Ministry has invited feedback and comments on the proposed bill from all stakeholders, including domain experts, broadcasting services providers and general public within next 30 days.

“The broadcasting landscape has undergone significant changes in the interim. Technological advancements have introduced new platforms such as DTH, IPTV, OTT, and various integrated models,” the ministry said in a press release.

“With the digitisation of the broadcasting sector, especially in cable TV, there is a growing need to streamline the regulatory framework. This involves ensuring ease of doing business and enhancing adherence to the Programme Code and Advertisement Code by the broadcasters and Distribution Platform Operators. Recognising the need for a more cohesive approach, the existing fragmented regulatory framework is required to be replaced with a new, comprehensive law,” the Ministry explained.

Following are highlights of the proposed bill, which comprises of 6 Chapters, 48 Sections and 3 Schedules:

* Consolidation and Modernisation: The proposed bill addresses a long-standing need of consolidating and updating regulatory provisions for various broadcasting services under a single legislative framework. This move streamlines the regulatory process, making it more efficient and contemporary. It extends its regulatory purview to encompass broadcasting over-the-top (OTT) content and digital news and current affairs currently regulated through IT Act, 2000 and regulations made there under.

* Contemporary Definitions and Future-Ready Provisions: To keep pace with evolving technologies and services, the bill introduces comprehensive definitions for contemporary broadcasting terms and incorporates provisions for emerging broadcasting technologies.

* Strengthens Self-Regulation Regime: 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’.

* Differentiated Programme Code and Advertisement Code: It allows for a differentiated approach to Programme and Advertisement Codes across various services  and require self-classification by broadcasters and robust access control measures for restricted content.

* Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities: The bill addresses specific needs of persons with disabilities by providing for enabling provisions for issue of comprehensive accessibility guidelines.

* Statutory Penalties and Fines: 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 offenxes, ensuring a balanced approach to regulation.

* Equitable Penalties: Monetary penalties and fines are linked to financial capacity of the entity, taking into account investment and turnover to ensure fairness and equity.

* Infrastructure Sharing, Platform Services and Right of Way: The bill 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.

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