India government introduces draft bill to regulate broadcasting and digital media News
© WikiMedia Commons (Laurie Jones)
India government introduces draft bill to regulate broadcasting and digital media

India’s government on Friday invited feedback and comments on the Draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, which was introduced on the same day to modernize the regulatory framework for broadcasting services, including Over-the-Top(OTT) content.  Releasing the draft bill, the Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur wrote:

This pivotal legislation modernizes our broadcasting sector’s regulatory framework, replacing outdated Acts, Rules, and Guidelines with a unified, future-focused approach. It adapts to the dynamic world of OTT, Digital Media, DTH, IPTV, and more, promoting technological advancement and service evolution.

Thakur also said that the bill aims to advance Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for “Ease of Doing Business” and “Ease of Living.” The new bill would regulate OTT content, digital news and current affairs and is divided into 48 sections, with six chapters and three schedules. It would replace the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995 and other Policy Guidelines currently governing broadcasting in the country.

For nearly thirty years, the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995 has been the principal law governing content on linear broadcasting, which includes cable networks. With the technological developments, there have been substantial changes to the broadcasting landscape which officials say necessitate the introduction of new laws that provide a consolidated regulatory framework. According to Thakur, the new legislation replaces antiquated acts, regulations, and guidelines with a “futuristic focused approach,” modernizing the regulatory framework for the broadcasting industry.

The bill seeks to improve self-regulation by creating Content Evaluation Committees and modifying the already existing Inter-Departmental Committee into a more participative and broader Broadcast Advisory Council. The Broadcast Advisory Council will be established to provide guidance to the government on violations of the programme and advertising codes, and would consist of distinguished individuals and officials, led by a sectoral specialist. Officials argue that these two bodies are key for strengthening self-regulation and fostering inclusive decision-making within the new platforms. 

Moreover, the proposed bill would subject operators and broadcasters to statutory fines, which could include advisory, warning, censure, or monetary penalties. In what proponents of the bill say is a balanced approach to regulation, the option for imprisonment and/or fines will still be available, but only for serious offenses. Any monetary penalties and fines would be linked to the financial capacity of the entity, taking into account their investment and turnover. 

Earlier in 2021, the Information technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 was released by the Indian Government to regulate the the social media platforms, digital media platforms and the OTT platforms.