Broadcast Bill kept in limbo to judge efficacy of self-regulation

Ravi budhwar

21 Apr 2011
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he proposed Broadcast Services Regulation Bill which was to have been introduced last year has been kept in limbo by the Government which wants to see how self-regulation by the news and general entertainment channels works.

Information and Broadcasting Ministry sources told it had been decided that the bill should not be brought to Parliament for the present since both the News Broadcasters Association as well as the Indian Broadcasting Foundation had introduced their Content Codes and self-regulatory mechanisms. While the NBA Regulatory body is headed by Justice J S Verma, the Broadcast Content Complaints Council of the IBF is headed by Justice A P Shah.

When reminded that I&B Minister Ambika Soni had at one stage emphasized that the Bill was only aimed at regulating licensing and similar issues and not content, the sources said Content Regulation had formed a major part of the Bill. Licensing and other issues could also be tackled under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 or other laws.

Soni had said in mid-2010 that the Task Force headed by (then) Secretary Raghu Menon had completed its meetings with various stakeholders and members of civic society, women’s organisations and others. She had said the report was under finalisation by this Force and may take some more time as it was a large bill. A tentative report had been prepared for a final meeting of the Task Force, she had added.

The legislation had been under discussion from the time the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act 1990 was promulgated in 1997 by then I&B Minister S Jaipal Reddy who had talked of bringing forward a comprehensive Broadcasting Bill which would include a regulator body.

He had then said the need was being felt in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court of February 1995, noting that airwaves were public property and there was need to set up a body to regulate these airwaves.

Though the Prasar Bharati Act 1990 also had provision for a Broadcasting Council which was meant to be a regulation for private TV channels as well, it was never implemented.

It had subsequently been discussed as a Convergence Bill by the then NDA Government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in view of the convergence of technologies, but a Group of Ministers set up for the purpose had failed to reach any unanimity.

The Broadcast Services Regulation Bill was first placed on the Ministry’s website in 2007 and then a revised version was put on the site a year later.
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