The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in November invited comments on the new Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023 (the “Bill”). Recognizing the need to streamline the regulatory framework, the Bill seeks to replace the three-decade old Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1997 and other Policy Guidelines currently governing the broadcasting sector.
The Bill streamlines regulatory processes, extends its purview to cover the Over-the-Top (“OTT”) content and digital news, and introduces contemporary definitions and provisions for emerging technologies. It seeks to provide for Content Evaluation Committees and a Broadcast Advisory Council for self-regulation, different program and advertisement codes for different Broadcasting Network Operators, Accessibility measures for persons with disabilities, statutory penalties, etc.
Key features of the Bill include:
- Consolidation and Modernization: The bill consolidates and modernizes regulatory provisions, extending oversight to OTT content and digital news, streamlining processes for efficiency.
- Contemporary Definitions and Future-Ready Provisions: Introducing contemporary definitions and future-ready provisions, the Bill adapts to evolving technologies, providing comprehensive terms for broadcasting and accommodating emerging services.
- Strengthens Self-Regulation: It establishes 'Content Evaluation Committees' and transforms the Inter-Departmental Committee into a more inclusive 'Broadcast Advisory Council.'
- Differentiated Programme and Advertisement Codes: Allowing differentiated codes for programs and ads, broadcasters self-classify and implement access controls for restricted content.
- Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities: Addressing the needs of persons with disabilities, the Bill provides comprehensive accessibility guidelines.
- Statutory Penalties and Fines: Introducing statutory penalties, including advisory measures and fines, it reserves imprisonment and fines for severe offenses, ensuring a balanced regulatory approach.
- Equitable Penalties: Penalties are linked to financial capacity, considering investment and turnover for fairness and equity.
- Infrastructure Sharing, Platform Services, and Right of Way: Addressing infrastructure sharing, carriage of platform services, and Right of Way, the bill streamlines processes and establishes a structured dispute resolution mechanism.