Government tables new Bill to regulate OTT, digital and new media

The government on Friday unveiled a Bill that seeks to consolidate regulatory framework for broadcasting services, including Over-The-Top (OTT) and digital media content. 

The Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, seeks to replace the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act of 1995 and other rules and guidelines governing the broadcasting sector and strengthen self-regulation on content. 

“This pivotal legislation modernises our broadcasting sector’s regulatory framework, replacing outdated acts, rules, and guidelines with a unified, future-focused approach,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said on the X (formerly Twitter). 

Mr Thakur said that the draft legislation sought to advance Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for ease of doing business and ease of living and adapts to the dynamic world of OTT, digital media, DTH, IPTV and more, promoting technological advancement and service evolution. 

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has invited comments on the Bill from stakeholders, including domain experts, broadcasting services providers and the general public, within the next month. 

The Bill has provisions for setting up Content Evaluation Committees by broadcasters and strengthening self-regulations. It also seeks to set up a Broadcast Advisory Council to advise the government on advertisement code and programme code violations. 

The Broadcast Advisory Council, which will be headed by a sectoral expert and have eminent persons and bureaucrats as members, is set to replace the Inter-Departmental Committee, which mainly comprises bureaucrats. 

The Bill also seeks to empower self-regulating bodies to penalise their members for contravention of norms and articles or the programme and advertisement codes through monetary and non-monetary penalties. 

The statutory penalties proposed in the Bill include advisory, warning, censure or monetary penalties for operators and broadcasters. It also has a provision for imprisonment and/or fines, but only for very serious offenses, thus ensuring a balanced approach to regulation. 

In a statement, the ministry said that to keep pace with evolving technologies and services, the Bill introduces definitions for contemporary broadcasting terms and incorporates provisions for emerging broadcasting technologies. 

It allows for a differentiated approach to the programme and advertisement codes across various services and requires self-classification by broadcasters and robust access control measures for restricted content. 

The monetary penalties and fines, proposed in the Bill, are linked to the financial capacity of the entity, taking into account their investment and turnover to ensure fairness and equity.

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