I&B ministry to set up regulatory authority for private TV and FM channels
The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry will soon set up a one-stop regulatory authority to receive complaints against programmes on private radio and televisions channels and for broadcasting code violations, ending the practice of self-regulation.
Till now, complaints against content of private radio and TV channels could be lodged with district magistrates, as was done by several viewers in the case of televangelist Zakir Naik, or with self regulatory bodies such as Advertising Standards Council of India and the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) for entertainment TV channels.
With the setting up of a new regulator, audiences will have a centralised mechanism to report violations.
While the move has raised concerns that the regulator would muzzle free speech, sources in the I&B ministry said the body is being formed in keeping with the Supreme Court’s direction.
“Last year, the Supreme Court had asked the ministry to set up a statutory mechanism for redressal of complaints against contents of private TV channels and radio stations. It has asked the ministry to use the power under section 22 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act to set up the mechanism and rules to formalise the complaint redressal mechanism and accord adequate publicity to it so as to enable the public approach it with their complaints,” a source said.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by NGO ‘Mediawatch India’ seeking a regulatory body for media on the ground that the Centre has failed to regulate the contents of the broadcast media.
Content being aired by private channels, local channels, private FM channels and community radio stations has to adhere to the All India Radio’s Broadcast Code and the Programme Code and Advertisement Code of the Cable Television, Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
These rules forbid the use of content that criticises friendly countries, attacks a religion or community, is obscene or derogatory, denigrates women or incites violence.
Sources said the need for a regulator was also felt owing to the increasing number of complaints against “inappropriate content” on private channels and even community radio stations.
A similar move was made during the NDA’s earlier regime but was scrapped in favour of self-regulation.
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