Plans to overhaul broadcasting laws have been unveiled by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which announced proposals for the proposed Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023.
The current legislation, the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995, has been in place for more than three decades. The proposed new law aims to replace outdated regulations, encompassing a wide spectrum of online broadcasting services including content streamed over-the-top (OTT) to internet-connected devices and digital news.
The announcement is already sparking debate over the potential for censorship of content on platforms such as Netflix and Hotstar.
The new bill aims to consolidate and update the diverse regulations concerning broadcasting services under a single legislative framework, said the government announcement. To accommodate emerging technologies, it introduces comprehensive definitions for modern broadcasting terms and provisions for their regulation.
Content Evaluation Committees will be established to evaluate content adherence to codes, replacing the existing Inter-Departmental Committee with a more inclusive Broadcast Advisory Council.
Separate Programme and Advertisement Codes for different networks are also proposed, with broadcasters required to classify their content and enforce access controls for restricted material. To ensure broadcasting services cater to individuals with disabilities, the bill includes provisions outlining comprehensive accessibility guidelines.
The proposed legislation also introduces penalties for violations, ranging from advisory warnings to censure or financial penalties for operators and broadcasters. For serious offences, imprisonment and fines are included. Monetary fines will be linked to the financial capacity of the entity.