Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023

Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023

News: Recently, experts have raised concerns over the self-regulatory provisions of the Draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023.

• The Draft Broadcasting Services (regulation) Bill, 2023 aims to provide for a consolidated framework to regulate the broadcasting services in the country.
• It replaces Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995.

Key provisions:
• It extends its regulatory purview to cover broadcasting over-the-top (OTT) content and digital news and current affairs currently regulated through IT Act, 2000.
• It seeks to establish regulatory bodies such as ‘Content Evaluation Committees’ for self-regulation and Introduces a ‘Broadcast Advisory Council‘to advise the central government on violations of program and advertisement codes.
• It prescribes penalties such as advisory, warning, censure, or monetary penalties for operators and broadcasters. It reserves imprisonment and/or fines for severe offenses, like obtaining registration with a false affidavit.
• It promotes the use of subtitles, audio descriptors, and sign language and it establishes a provision for appointing a Disability Grievance Officer.
• It links monetary penalties and fines to the financial capacity of the entity, considering their investment and turnover for fairness and equity.
• It also makes provisions for infrastructure sharing among broadcasting network operators.

What are the concerns raised by experts?
• The bill raises concerns about whether the focus is genuinely on public service or on increasing control and regulation by the government. There are apprehensions that the Bill may intensify government control over digital infrastructure and citizens' viewing choices
• Subjecting creative media, such as OTT to government prescribed programmes and advertising codes could impact creativity and freedom of speech and expression.
• Mandatory disclosure of personal details of members in the Content Evaluation Committee (CEC): This raises concerns about potential risks to individuals involved in the CEC due to diverse audience’s sensitivities.
• A specific provision (point 36) in the draft, emphasizes the broad and ambiguous language that grants authorities the power to prohibit content. Raises questions about the influence of “authorized officers” working under government direction.
• Concerns are also raised over the independence of the Broadcast Advisory Council in exercising its powers under the Act.

Way Forward
• Develop a comprehensive and modern legislative framework that encompasses all aspects of broadcasting, including traditional television, OTT platforms, digital media, and emerging technologies.
• Prioritize stakeholder consultation to gather insights from industry experts, content creators, broadcasters, and the public. Ensure a diverse range of perspectives to create well-informed regulations.
• Implement a robust content classification and rating system to provide clear guidelines for audiences. This ensures that viewers can make informed choices, and it helps in regulating content based on appropriateness.
• Recognize the diversity of broadcasting platforms, including traditional TV, OTT, and digital media. Adopt a differentiated approach in regulation, acknowledging the unique characteristics and challenges of each platform.
• Invest in media literacy programs to educate the public about responsible media consumption. Informed viewership contributes to a healthier media environment and reduces the need for excessive regulatory measures.

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