The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) introduced the Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill in November as one of several initiatives aimed at regulating broadcasting in a comprehensive way. The Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, which was introduced in 2007, was the most recent attempt to tackle this difficult undertaking. A decade prior to that, during the nascent stages of cable and satellite broadcasting, the Broadcasting Bill of 1997 penned the initial attempt to illustrate a comprehensive regulatory structure for this industry. Following a referral from the MIB, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a pre-consultation paper on “National Broadcasting Policy,” which was the basis for the most recent iteration of a broadcasting bill.
The Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, is a landmark piece of legislation that seeks to modernize and consolidate the regulatory framework governing the broadcasting sector in India. It aims to address the convergence of traditional and over-the-top (OTT) platforms and establish a level playing field for all broadcasters.
Key Features of the Bill
Unified Regulatory Framework:
- The bill replaces the existing Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, and brings all broadcasting services under a single regulatory framework.
- This includes television, radio, satellite, and internet-based services.
Regulation of OTT Platforms:
- The bill brings OTT platforms under the purview of the broadcasting regulatory framework.
- This means that OTT content will be subject to the same standards as traditional broadcasting content.
Differentiated Content Regulation:
- The bill introduces a differentiated approach to content regulation, with separate codes for different categories of services.
- This will allow for more flexibility and adaptability in regulating content.
- The bill promotes self-regulation by broadcasters, with the establishment of Content Evaluation Committees and a Broadcast Advisory Council.
- These bodies will play a key role in ensuring compliance with the Programme and Advertisement codes.
Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities:
- The bill mandates that broadcasters make their content accessible to persons with disabilities through the use of subtitles, audio descriptors, and sign language.
- The bill introduces stricter penalties for violations of the regulations.
- This includes fines, imprisonment, and suspension or cancellation of broadcasting licenses.
Digital News and Current Affairs:
- The bill extends the regulatory framework to cover digital news and current affairs content, which was previously regulated under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Electronic Media and Monitoring Centre:
- The bill establishes an Electronic Media and Monitoring Centre to monitor and record broadcasting content and ensure compliance with the regulations.
Right of Way Provisions:
- The bill streamlines the ‘Right of Way’ section to address relocation and alterations more efficiently.
Structured Dispute Resolution Mechanism:
- The bill establishes a structured dispute resolution mechanism to resolve disputes between broadcasters and the government.
Significance of the Bill
The Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, holds immense significance for the broadcasting sector in India, marking a transformative step towards a modernized and consolidated regulatory framework. Here’s a comprehensive overview of the bill’s significance:
- Addressing Convergence: The bill effectively addresses the convergence of traditional broadcasting platforms and over-the-top (OTT) services, bringing both under a single regulatory umbrella. This move ensures that all broadcasters, regardless of their delivery mechanism, adhere to the same standards and regulations.
- Level Playing Field: By bringing OTT platforms under the regulatory framework, the bill establishes a level playing field for all broadcasters. This eliminates the competitive advantage that OTT platforms previously enjoyed due to their lack of regulation.
- Content Regulation: The bill introduces a differentiated approach to content regulation, tailoring the standards to the specific category of broadcasting service. This flexibility allows for more appropriate and adaptable content regulation across diverse platforms.
- Accessibility: The bill mandates that broadcasters make their content accessible to persons with disabilities, ensuring inclusion and equal access to information and entertainment. This provision promotes social equity and inclusivity.
The Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, is a significant milestone in India’s broadcasting sector, paving the way for a modern, inclusive, and responsible broadcasting ecosystem that caters to the diverse needs of Indian audiences.