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Ambika Soni Hints At Bringing Law To Regulate TV Channel Content

New Delhi, Dec 13: Government today said it was open to the idea of holding an all-party meeting on the issue of regulating contents on cable TV but maintained that a ‘fatwa' or a direction
ambika soni hints at bringing law to regulate tv...
PTI 13 Dec 2011, 15:43:19 PM IST

New Delhi, Dec 13: Government today said it was open to the idea of holding an all-party meeting on the issue of regulating contents on cable TV but maintained that a ‘fatwa' or a direction will not help serve the purpose.

A draft Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill has been put on the website and a final bill could be brought for consideration of Parliament after the stipulated time provided to get feedback from various stakeholders is over, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said during Question Hour in the Lok Sabha.

She said an ordinance can be promulgated if the House does not want to evolve a consensus or take into consideration the views of those who would be affected.  Soni said it was important to get the views of those who would be affected by the bill as “media is a sensitive matter, no matter what we say.”

She said without discussion, any “fatwa based on law” or direction on the subject will not help.  The minister said a Group of Ministers on media has been set up and some of her cabinet colleagues have started an open debate on the issue.

“We are getting views. After collating the views, we want to bring a law which is beyond the self-regulatory body that has been set up...I have no objections if a law is made after an all-party meeting is convened by the Prime Minister in which views of everyone are taken in writing,” she said.

Members today voiced concern over the content of TV channels and wanted it to be curbed, prompting the government to say that it could consider holding an all-party meeting to discuss its regulation but would issue no ‘fatwa'.

Ambika Soni told the Lok Sabha that a draft Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill has been put on the website and a final bill could be brought for consideration of Parliament after the stipulated time provided to get feedback from various stakeholders is over.

“I have no objection if a law is made after an all-party meeting is convened by the Prime Minister in which views of everyone are taken in writing,” she said during Question Hour. “We are getting views. After collating the views, we want to bring a law which is beyond the self-regulatory body which has been set up,” she said.

Noting that “media is a sensitive matter, no matter what we say”, she said it was important to get the views of those who would be affected by the bill.

Soni said as a mother and grandmother, she herself was “worried” at the content being broadcast on TV channels but without discussion, any “fatwa based on law” or direction on the subject will not help.

She suggested that the government could consider an ordinance if no consensus is reached in the House and views of those who would be affected are also not considered. The issue came up during Question Hour as well as during the debate on Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Second Amendment Bill, with members complaining that TV channels were broadcasting indecent and obscene contents which could not be watched with family members.

Soni said as a mother and a grandmother, she was herself “worried” at the contents being shown on TV channels. The minister said a two-tier self-regulatory system is in place to monitor the contents on TV channels. Under the first tier, the channels themselves check the output, while tier two consists of a regulatory mechanism comprising a 13-member body.

She said 300 complaints have been received by the body since June last year and their replies have been sent.  Monetary fine was imposed on one channel, she said.

As per the eligibility criteria envisaged in the Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of TV channels, only companies registered under the Company's Act are eligible for grant of permission and state governments, as such, are not eligible to seek such permission, she said.

Later, while replying to a debate on the Cable Bill, she said the government keeps talking to broadcasters about the content but their refrain was that such programmes bring more Television Rating Points (TRP) and hence more advertisements.  The Cable Bill will help build a subscriber list which will help in determining the advertisements.

Shailender Kumar (Samajwadi Party) said advertisements shown on TV channels, including during news programmes, were so “indecent” and “obscene” that these could not be watched with family members.

Maheshwar Hazari of JD (U) also complained that programmes telecast on TV channels were not worth watching with family members.

Contending that it was imitation of the western world, he demanded proper monitoring and enactment of some law to curb the practice.

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