Broadcast law overhaul seeks to cover OTTs, digital media | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Broadcast law overhaul seeks to cover OTTs, digital media

By, New Delhi
Nov 11, 2023 06:30 AM IST

The bill seeks to bring streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hotstar within the ambit of MIB without having to rely on Information Technology Rules, 2021.

The ministry of information and broadcasting released the Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023 for consultation on Friday, seeking to replace the current Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 in order to consolidate all existing laws and policies under one unified framework.

Union minister Anurag Thakur. (PTI) PREMIUM
Union minister Anurag Thakur. (PTI)

The bill seeks to bring streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hotstar completely within the ambit of the MIB without having to rely on the Information Technology Rules, 2021.

The MIB has already consulted with the Department of Telecommunications, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, and the Ministry of Home Affairs, the government said.

Currently, the TRAI is conducting a consultation on the creation of a National Broadcasting Policy. Separately, the ministry of communications is looking at the Telecommunications Bill, while the IT ministry is working on the proposed Digital India Act.

While most categories of broadcasting network operators will have to seek a license for operation from the central government, the streaming platforms will only have to "intimate" the central government if they have more than the prescribed number of subscribers or viewers. However, to avoid “genuine hardship” on OTT broadcasters, the central government can exempt specific broadcasters from any provisions of the act through guidelines.

All programmes and advertisements will have to adhere to the yet-to-be prescribed Programme Code and Advertisement Code, respectively. These codes can be different for linear broadcasting services, on demand broadcasting services, radio broadcasting services and any other broadcasting service category as notified by the central government. This means that different codes can exist for push and pull content.

The Bill also empowers the central government to regulate services "other than broadcasting services that are intricately linked to broadcasting networks or broadcasting services".

All the provisions of the proposed Bill that apply to streaming platforms will also apply to online broadcasters of news and current affairs programmes.

Controversially, the Bill proposed applying the Programme Code and the Advertisement Code to any person "who broadcasts news and current affairs programs through an online paper, news portal, website, social media intermediary, or other similar medium but excluding publishers of newspapers and replica e-papers of such newspapers, as part of a systematic business, professional, or commercial activity".

To keep the act “future-proof”, the Bill empowers the central government may apply the provisions of the act to any service that provides broadcasting services.

The proposed Bill relies on 65 sets of delegated legislation so details of how the act will be operationalised are scant.

All broadcasting network operators are required to “maintain records about the programmes transmitted by them”. It is not clear what such records should have.

The Central government may issue guidelines to broadcasters so that they have to classify their content. Every broadcaster or broadcasting network operator will be required to have one or more “Content Evaluation Committee” which will certify all the programmes that can be broadcast. This CEC will be an internal committee that will have members who are eminent individuals representing different social groups.

The government will also come up with a "negative list", that is, content that will not require cclassification by the CEC, Chandra said. This could include live sports, informative content on channels such as Discovery and National Geographic, he said. However, the Bill makes no mention of such a list.

All broadcasters and broadcast network operators will be required to appoint a grievance redressal officer to receive and hear complaints about violation of the Programme Code and Advertisement Code. Appeals will be referred to the self-regulatory organisation. Subsequently, they will be referred to new body, called the Broadcast Advisory Council.

While similar to the three-tier structure that Part III of the IT Rules, 2021, the composition of the BAC is slightly different compared to the Inter-Departmental Committee under the IT Rules: The BAC will be chaired by one eminent independent person with at least twenty five years of experience in the fields of media, entertainment, broadcasting and other relevant fields. Unlike the IDC which only had members from the government, the BAC will have 5 government members and five government-nominated independent people with experience in media, entertainment, broadcasting, child rights, disability rights, rights of women, human rights, law and other relevant fields.

The BAC will advise the central government on what orders to issue to the broadcaster or the broadcasting network operator.

The central government could then order the broadcaster or the broadcasting network operator to delete or modify the programme or advertisement, to display an apology scroll at a specified date and time, to make the director or CEO or key personnel read out an apology, or direct the channel to be off-air for a specified number of hours or days. It can also impose a financial penalty.

In case of repeated and persistent non-compliance, after imposing aforementioned penalties, the central government can also cancel the registration of any broadcaster or broadcasting network operator. A registration includes both licensing (for Star, Colors, etc.) and intimations (for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc.).

Penalties

Penalties will be imposed on the basis of the turnover and investment separately; the category which attracts higher maximum penalty will be applicable. Micro entities will attract 2% penalty while small and medium entities will attract 5% and 50% respectively. Major entities, whose turnover is more than 250 crore and investment is more than 50 crore will can attract at the minimum a 10 lakh penalty for first contravention to 50 crore for subsequent contravention within 3 years.

Contravention of the Programme Code or the Advertisement Code will attract different penalties for different operators. Streaming platforms will attract up to 20,000 for first contravention and up to one lakh rupees for every subsequent contravention.

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