Broadcasting ‘socially relevant’ Content

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    In Context

    • Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the new guidelines for television channels in India.

    More about the news

    • About:
      • The new guidelines are for uplinking and downlinking of television channels in India.
      • Under the guidelines, all the stations holding permission would have to broadcast content on issues of national importance and social relevance for at least 30 minutes every day.
    • Exemptions:
      • The guidelines exclude foreign channels and cases where it may not be feasible.
      • The guidelines also exempt the channels including those related to sports, where it would not be feasible to broadcast such content. 
    • The provision has been introduced as “airwaves/frequencies are public property and need to be used in the best interest of the society”. 
      • The eight listed themes include: 
        • Education and spread of literacy; 
        • Agriculture and rural development; 
        • Health and family welfare; 
        • Science and technology; 
        • Welfare of women; 
        • Welfare of the weaker sections of society; 
        • Protection of environment and of cultural heritage; and 
        • National integration.
    • Cases of non-compliance:
      • Once implemented, the Ministry will monitor the channels for such content, and in case someone is found to be non-compliant, an explanation will be sought.

    Making India a teleport hub

    • Uplinking foreign channels from Indian teleports:
      • While specific timelines have been proposed for the grant of permission, imited Liability Partnership (LLP)/companies would be allowed to uplink foreign channels from Indian teleports.
        • This would create employment opportunities and make India a teleport-hub for other countries.
      • Channel could be uplinked by using facilities of more than one teleport/satellite. 
      • The guidelines have broadened the possibility of allowing the transfer of TV channel/teleport to a company/LLP, as permissible under the Companies Act or the Limited Liability Act.
    • Extended permissions:
      • A news agency could now get permission for a five-year period as against one year at present.
    • Penalty:
      • The penalty clauses have also been rationalised and separate nature of penalties have been proposed for different types of contraventions as against uniform penalty at present. 

    Regulation of media in India:

    • Media in India is mostly self-regulated.  
      • The existing bodies for regulation of media such as the Press Council of India which is a statutory body and the News Broadcasting Standards Authority, a self-regulatory organization, issue standards which are more in the nature of guidelines. 
    • Print Media:
      • Press Council of India (PCI): 
        • The PCI was established under the PCI Act of 1978 for the purpose of preserving the freedom of the press and of maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India.
        • Functions: 
          • Helping newspapers maintain their independence;
          • Build a code of conduct for journalists and news agencies; 
          • Help maintain “high standards of public taste” and foster responsibility among citizens; and
          • Review developments likely to restrict flow of news.
    • Electronic Media:
      • Today news channels are governed by mechanisms of self-regulation.  
      • One such mechanism has been created by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA).  
        • The NBA has devised a Code of Ethics to regulate television content.  
        • The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), of the NBA, is empowered to warn, admonish, censure, express disapproval and fine the broadcaster a sum upto Rs. 1 lakh for violation of the Code.  
      • Another such organization is the Broadcast Editors’ Association
        • The Advertising Standards Council of India has also drawn up guidelines on content of advertisements. 
      • These groups govern through agreements and do not have any statutory powers.
    • Social Media:
      • Certain standards have been prescribed for content accessible over the internet under the IT Rules 2011.  
        • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has published a fresh draft of amendments to the Information Technology Rules, 2021.
      • Government has also come up with Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.
      • However, a regulatory body such as the PCI or the CBFC does not exist.  Complaints are addressed to the internet service provider or the host.

    Broadcast Seva Portal

    • About:
      • It is a 360 degree digital solution that will facilitate stakeholders in seeking permissions, applying for registration, tracking applications, calculating fees and executing payments. 
      • This simple and user-friendly web portal provides a broadcaster with an end-to-end solution with just a click of a mouse.
      • Ministry:
        • It is an initiative of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
    • Significance:
      • It will boost the business environment and empower the entire broadcast sector by directly benefiting more than 900 Satellite TV Channels, 70 Teleport operators, 1700 Multi-service operators, 350 Community Radio Stations (CRS), and 380 Private FM Channels and others.
      • It would facilitate the stakeholders in seeking permissions, applying for registration, tracking applications, calculating fees and executing payments.
      • It would bring transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the ecosystem and all information would be available on a single dashboard.
      • The ease of doing business will get promoted with its launch.

    Way Ahead

    • Freedom of press:
      • The freedom of press is a necessary element of the freedom of expression that involves a right to receive and impart information without which democracy becomes an empty slogan. 
      • But this right is not absolute and is subjected to the reasonable restrictions of defamation and contempt of court.
    • Regulation of media & Role of civil society:
      • The media should practice better self-regulation.
        • If the government starts regulating the media, the complete purpose would be defeated.
      • An informed, cultivated, and interested civil society can be the best watchdog over politics and the media. 

    Source: TH