Members of the Lok Sabha, cutting across party lines, on Tuesday went hammer and tongs against the cable TV channels for their ‘indecent and obscene contents’ which could not be viewed with family and wanted the government to be tough and enact a stringent legislation to regulate such media.
There were references about the contents of the popular show - Big Boss -- and programmes aired by some Hindi channels by the members. Even some advertisements in the satellite channels did not escape their ire.
However, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, who was replying to a few questions and subsequent debate on a Bill on the cable TV network in the Lok Sabha, expressed, in a restrained tone, her department’s inability to regulate those electronic channels beyond a certain limit and pointed out that a Group of Ministers (GoM) had already been looking into the issue. “I do understand the sentiments of the members concerned on the quality of programmes telecast by some channels” .
The government welcomed suggestions from all quarters and everything would be discussed threadbare and appropriate steps would be taken to enact suitable legislation as the issue concerning media was very sensitive.
Ms. Soni, later replying to the debate on the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Second Amendment Bill, 2011, said the government was even open to the idea of holding an all-party meeting on the issue of regulating contents on cable TV channels.
A draft Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill had been put on the website and a final Bill could be brought for consideration of Parliament after the stipulated time provided to get feedback from various stakeholders was over.
A two-tier self-regulatory system was in place to monitor the contents on TV channels. Under the first tier, the channels themselves checked the output, while tier two consisted of a regulatory mechanism comprising a 13-member body. About 300 complaints hade been received by the body since June last year and their replies have been sent. Monetary fine was imposed on one channel.
As per the eligibility criteria envisaged in the Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of TV channels, only companies registered under the Company's Act were eligible for grant of permission from state governments. As such, they were not eligible to seek such permission.
Ms. Soni said the government indeed keep talking to broadcasters about the content but their refrain was that such programmes brought more Television Rating Points (TRP) and hence more advertisements. The Cable Bill would help build a subscriber list which help in determining the advertisements.
The Bill was a major step towards reform which would enable digitalisation of the analog TV network and bring India on a par with other countries like US, UK, Korea and Taiwan. The perceptions that the new Act would render cable operators jobless were misplaced, she said and insisted that the main concern of the government was the viewers' interest.
It would benefit the customer by providing a la carte selection of channels and video-on-demand, among other things and the broadcasters and cable operators by ensuring transparency, reducing their dependency on TRP and advertisement revenues and raising subscription revenue.
The government would also gain by way of more and proper tax collection, she said.