I&B Ministry introduces draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023

The draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023 aims to provide a consolidated framework to regulate broadcasting services in the country and seeks to replace the existing Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act and other laws governing the sector

November 10, 2023 07:29 pm | Updated 08:42 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Union Minister Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur.

Union Minister Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

The Information & Broadcasting Ministry on November 10 released the draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, which aims to bring in a new regulatory framework in keeping with the technological advancements in the sector.

The Ministry has invited feedback and comments on the draft Bill from stakeholders within 30 days from the date of its release.

“This pivotal legislation modernises our broadcasting sector’s regulatory framework, replacing outdated Acts, Rules, and Guidelines with a unified, future-focused approach. It adapts to the dynamic world of OTT, Digital Media, DTH, IPTV, and more, promoting technological advancement and service evolution,” said I&B Minister Anurag Thakur on X (formerly Twitter).

The draft Bill provides for a consolidated framework to regulate the broadcasting services in the country and seeks to replace the existing Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, and other policy guidelines currently governing the broadcasting sector in the country.

The Ministry said: “It seeks to provide for Content Evaluation Committees and a Broadcast Advisory Council for self-regulation, different Programme and Advertisement codes for different Broadcasting Network Operators, accessibility measures for persons with disabilities, and statutory penalties, etc.”

The Bill comprises six chapters, 48 sections and three schedules. Listing its key features, a senior Ministry official said it not only extends the regulatory purview to encompass OTT content, digital news, and current affairs, currently regulated through Information Technology Act, 2000, but also keeps the option open for including any new platform developed in the future.

The official said the Bill introduces comprehensive definitions for contemporary broadcasting terms and incorporates provisions for emerging broadcasting technologies. “It 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’,” said the Ministry.

“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... the Bill addresses the specific needs of persons with disabilities by providing for enabling provisions for issue of comprehensive accessibility guidelines,” it said.

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 offences, ensuring a balanced approach to regulation... monetary penalties and fines are linked to the financial capacity of the entity, taking into account their investment and turnover to ensure fairness and equity,” said the Ministry.

The Bill also includes provisions for infrastructure sharing among broadcasting network operators and carriage of platform services. 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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