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New Broadcasting Bill outlines content regulation

The Information & Broadcasting Ministry released the draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, with a consolidated regulatory framework for the broadcasting sector, extending to OTT content and digital media.

The Centre released the draft of the Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill aimed at a regulatory framework in keeping with the technological advancements in the sector.

A significant aspect of the proposed changes includes the establishment of a Broadcast Advisory Council, which is for decision-making. The chairperson of this council is expected to be an individual with a minimum of twenty-five years of experience in media, entertainment, or broadcasting.

The committee will comprise five officers nominated by the central government, representing various ministries, and an additional five independent persons with expertise in media, entertainment, broadcasting, child rights, disability rights, women’s rights, and human rights law.

Broadcast Advisory Council will have the authority to impose monetary penalties, with fines linked to the financial capacity of the entity. Additionally, the council will have the power to seize equipment if there is reason to believe that the provisions of the Act, rules, or guidelines are being contravened.

Suspension or revocation of registration
The bill introduces provisions for the suspension or revocation of registration by the Registering Authority in case of violations of terms and conditions. Broadcasters will now be required to maintain accurate and updated records of subscriber data, undergo periodic external audits, and comply with technical measures to ensure the accuracy of subscriber data.

Power of inspection
The Centre or authorised officers will be granted the power of inspection over broadcasting networks and services. Operators must provide necessary equipment and facilities for lawful interception or continuous monitoring, subject to supervision.

“But no prior permission or intimation shall be required to exercise the right of the Central Government or its authorised officers or agency so authorised by it, to carry out such inspection,” the draft stated.

Self-regulation by broadcasters
Another aspect of the proposed legislation is the encouragement of self-regulation by broadcasters and broadcasting network operators. The Content Evaluation Committee (CEC) is expected to play a crucial role in this regard, with broadcasters required to broadcast only those programs certified by the CEC.

Every broadcaster or broadcasting network operator shall inform the government and also publicise names, credentials and other details of members of CEC on its website.

Can prohibit
The bill grants authorised officers the power to prohibit the transmission of programs or the operation of broadcasting networks if deemed necessary in the public interest. They can prohibit any cable broadcasting network operator, radio broadcasting network operator, terrestrial broadcasting network operator and IPTV broadcasting network operator, as per the bill.

The I&B Ministry has invited feedback and comments on the draft bill from stakeholders in the next 30 days. Sources told India Today TV that the government is unlikely to bring this bill in this session of Parliament which begins on December 4. India Today

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