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Budget Session: Bill to regulate channel contents

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 26: Concerned over some TV channels becoming a hotbed of sleaze and glorification of violence, the government has decided to introduce a bill in the Budget Session of Parliament, providing for a regulatory authority that would bring under its scanner contents of programmes broadcast by the electronic media.

''The need for a content regulator has become imperative because of the mushrooming of satellite TV channels, beaming programmes which are difficult to track under the existing regulatory mechanisms,'' Information and Broadcasting Ministry Secretary S K Arora told UNI.

However, the emphasis would be on self-regulation because it would be difficult for a central regulatory authority to closely monitor all programmes on such a large number of channels, Mr Arora said.

''It will not be on the pattern of a film Censor Board whose permission is mandatory for the screening of a film. We would rather prefer the broadcasters to set up their in-house regulators to make the programmes that do not offend the sensibility of the people,'' he pointed out.

The Ministry has held several rounds of meetings with stakeholders and discussions are in the final stages.

The proposed bill would have two major components -- content regulation and licensing procedure for broadcasters.

''The content regulation will not imply a blanket ban on programmes not fit for universal viewing. On the other hand, programmes will be graded for different age groups and there may also be late night slots for adult programmes,'' ministry sources said.

All these issues were being discussed for giving a final shape to the bill, the sources added.

Under the existing set-up, all programmes of satellite TV channels, transmitted directly or through cable channels, are governed by the Programme Code and Advertising Code prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

In order to strengthen the content regulation mechanism, the Central government has already constituted an inter-ministerial committee to look into the violation of the Pogramme and Advertising Code.

The committee comprises officials from the I&B, Home, External Affairs, Defence, Health, Law and Women and Child Development ministries and a representative of the Adevertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).

The committee has been empowered to examine cases of violation either suo motu or on receipt of complaints.

In this connection, the sources pointed out that FTV was recently slapped with a notice for beaming programmes not conforming to Indian tastes.

''They (FTV) have sent us a reply, promising to modify the programmes for Indian viewers.'' There is one more committee, headed by the I&B Secretary, for reviewing the Programme and Advertising Code and the guidelines for certification of films prescribed under the Cinematograph Act, 1952.

It can also modify the codes and guidelines to ''meet contemporary community standards.''


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