What is the Broadcasting Bill?

While the need for a Broadcasting Bill has been talked about since 1997, it was only in 2006 that the UPA Government with Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi as the Union Information & Broadcasting Minister brought out the draft for the Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill. The Bill, said the I&B Ministry, will regulate the broadcast services with several private TV channels around now. The draft bill, which calls for the setting up of a separate Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI), has covered four major areas in its ambit, which would call for major corporate restructuring by media companies—foreign and domestic—operating in India. These include content, cross media ownership, subscriptions and live sports feeds. Anubhuti Vishnoi explains

What regulations govern TV services as of now?

Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995 is the basic governing system for all TV channels related issues. However, the Ministry has been of the view for years now that the increase in the number of TV channels requires a special set of laws in keeping with the times and with provision for a regulatory mechanism.

What is Content Code?

Along with the draft broadcasting Bill, the Ministry has also formulated a content code to regulate the programme "quality" being aired by broadcasters and to "protect the consumers interests", national interests and right to privacy.

Why is the broadcasting industry against the Bill and the Content Code?

The big issue is the Government's "intention" to control or regulate programme content. The industry feels that the Government plans to infringe on their rights as a free media through the two proposed regulations and says that "draconian" laws will be applied, especially against news channels, under the ambit of the Bill if it is allowed to go through. A stringent Content Code and clauses like "national interest" and right to privacy of a citizen may spell the death knell for investigative journalism and sting operations for broadcasters.

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