The Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Thursday amended the rules regulating Cable TV networks, providing for a “statutory” mechanism for complaints raised by citizens regarding any content broadcast.
At present, there are over 900 TV channels that are required to comply with the Programme and Advertising Code laid down by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under the Cable Television Network Rules.
The Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021 provides for a three-level grievance redressal mechanism — self-regulation by broadcasters, self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the broadcasters, and oversight by an Inter-Departmental Committee at the level of the Union government.
A viewer can file a complaint directly to the broadcaster, who will have to respond within 15 days. If the complainant is not satisfied with the response, the complaint can be escalated to the self-regulating bodies set up by TV channels, which should deal with the case in 60 days.
“If the complainant is not satisfied with the decision of the self-regulating body, he may, within 15 days of such decision, prefer an appeal to the Central Government for its consideration under the Oversight Mechanism,” the amendment said.
Such appeals will be dealt with by the Inter-Departmental Committee set up under the Oversight Mechanism. The committee will be headed by the Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and have members from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence, and representatives of other Ministries and organisations, including experts, as the Centre may decide.
This third tier is not only kept aside to hear the appeals, it can take up complaints that come directly to the Centre.
At present, there is an institutional mechanism by way of an Inter-Ministerial Committee to address the grievances of citizens relating to the violation of the Programme/Advertising Codes under the Rules, but it does not have statutory backing.
After examining the complaints, the Inter-Departmental Committee can recommend the Centre to advise, issue a warning, censure, admonish or reprimand a broadcaster, or seek an apology. It can also ask the broadcaster to include a warning card or a disclaimer, or to delete or modify content, or take the channel or a programme off-air for a specified time period, where it is satisfied that such action is warranted.