Parl Panel to hold ‘constructive’ talks with ministry on Broadcast Bill

The parliamentary standing committee on communications and information technology said it will engage in constructive discussions with the information and broadcasting ministry on the proposed Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, 2023, which has created a furore in the TV broadcasting and over-the-top (OTT) segments.

In its 56th report titled ‘Regulation of Cable Television in India’, the committee, headed by Shiv Sena MP Prataprao Jadhav, also asked the ministry to apprise it about the timeline when the ministry would introduce the draft Bill in Parliament. “The committee would further like to engage in constructive discussions regarding the proposed draft legislation at a more mature stage of its formulation,” the report said.

The Bill, which seeks to replace the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995, aims to bring TV, OTT, radio, cable, DTH, IPTV and HITS under a common regulatory framework. It was released for public consultation on November 10, 2023, and the last date for furnishing comments was January 15 this year.

While taking note of the challenges faced by cable TV service providers in the country, the committee said the industry needs to be regulated through a comprehensive law and asked the ministry to ensure that the proposed Bill is introduced at the earliest. It said the draft Bill would go a long way in addressing the issues faced by the cable TV industry. Cable TV is regulated by multiple laws and regulators, including the ministry, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and the department of telecom.

It also asked the ministry to “ensure that adequate consultations are done with all the concerned stakeholders”. The Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation and News Broadcasters and Digital Association have raised concerns that the Bill attempts to give unbridled powers to the government to interfere with content creation and dissemination process. On the issue of broadcast tariff, the committee said TV distributors should be given the freedom to pick and choose channels from the broadcaster bouquets since they are the link between the consumers and broadcasters.

“To safeguard consumer interests and promote freedom of choice, the committee recommends that distribution platform operators be granted the authority to select individual channels from broadcasters’ bouquets,” the committee said.

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