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MIB proposes Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023 to streamline the regulatory framework

The proposed legislation will replace the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995.

The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has introduced the draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, in response to the changing landscape of the broadcasting industry. This bill aims to replace the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995 and adapt to the advancements in technology and the various broadcasting platforms that have emerged in recent times.

The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995 has been the main law overseeing content on traditional television networks, including cable networks, for 30 years. However, the emergence of new technologies like Direct-to-Home (DTH), Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), Over-the-Top (OTT), and integrated models has drastically changed the broadcasting industry. This calls for a thorough and modernized regulatory framework.

The proposed Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023 seeks to tackle these changes by establishing a unified legal structure for the broadcasting sector. The primary objective is to streamline the regulatory procedures and enhance adherence to the programme code and advertisement code for broadcasters and distribution platform operators.

To stay updated on the ever-changing broadcasting industry, the proposed Bill includes modern definitions for broadcasting terms and sets rules for new technologies. It expands its authority to cover Over-the-Top (OTT) content and digital news, in line with the Information Technology Act of 2000 and its regulations.

The draft Bill emphasises strengthening the self-regulation regime by introducing 'Content Evaluation Committees' and transforming the existing Inter-Departmental Committee into a more participative and broader 'Broadcast Advisory Council.' This move aims to enhance the efficiency of the regulatory process and promote a more contemporary approach.

The proposed legislation includes an important aspect, which is the implementation of different programme and advertisement codes for different services. This means that broadcasters will need to classify their content themselves and put in place strong access control measures for content that is restricted.

Recognising the specific needs of persons with disabilities, the Bill includes provisions for issuing comprehensive accessibility guidelines, promoting inclusivity in the broadcasting sector.

In terms of penalties and fines, the draft Bill introduces a range of statutory measures, including advisory, warning, censure, or monetary penalties, with provisions for imprisonment and/or fines for very serious offenses. Importantly, the monetary penalties and fines are linked to the financial capacity of the entity, ensuring fairness and equity in the regulatory process.

The draft Bill also addresses issues related to infrastructure sharing among broadcasting network operators and streamlines the Right of Way section to handle relocation and alterations more efficiently. It establishes a structured dispute resolution mechanism to enhance operational efficiency.

The proposed Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, is a significant move towards bringing transparency, self-regulation, and advanced broadcasting services in India. The Ministry has also invited feedback on the Bill, showing their dedication to involving stakeholders and ensuring inclusivity in shaping the future of the broadcasting industry in the country.

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