India/ 5.3 Sector specific legislation  

5.3.7 Mass media

Prasar Bharati is the main public broadcaster in the country established under the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990. The Prasar Bharati Corporation has two main divisions: Doordarshan, which provides multi-lingual television services throughout the country as well as overseas, and the All India Radio, the radio broadcasting arm. Doordarshan and other government-run channels like Lok Sabha TV (which telecasts live the proceedings of the Lok Sabha – the House of the People of the Indian Parliament) are to be compulsorily transmitted on all cable television networks under the Section 8(1) (i) of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

Some of the main powers of the Prasar Bharati Corporation are listed under Section 12 of the Act. These include its duties as a ‘public broadcasting service’ to inform, educate and entertain the public and to ensure a balanced development of broadcasting on radio and television. These shall be guided by the following objectives, namely

-       the upholding the unity and integrity of the country and the values enshrined in the Constitution;

-       safeguarding the citizen’s right to be informed freely, truthfully and objectively on all matters of public interest, national or international, and presenting a fair and balanced flow of information including contrasting views without advocating any opinion or ideology of its own;

-       paying special attention to the fields of education and spread of literacy, agriculture, rural development, environment, health and family welfare and science and technology;

-       providing adequate coverage to the diverse cultures and languages of the various regions of the country by broadcasting appropriate programmes;

-       providing adequate coverage to sports and games so as to encourage healthy competition and the spirit of sportsmanship;

-       providing appropriate programmes keeping in view the special needs of the youth;

-       informing and stimulating the national consciousness in regard to the status and problems of women and paying special attention to the upliftment of women;

-       promoting social justice and combating exploitation, inequality and such evils as untouchability and advancing the welfare of the weaker sections of the society;

-       safeguarding the rights of the working classes and advancing their welfare;

-       serving the rural and weaker sections of the people and those residing in border regions, backward or remote areas;

-       providing suitable programmes keeping in view the special needs of the minorities and tribal communities;

-       taking special steps to protect the interests of children, the blind, the aged, the handicapped and other vulnerable sections of the people;

-       promoting national integration by broadcasting in a manner that facilitates communication in the languages in India.

Regulation of media

Among media, only the press is regulated by a statutory authority, the Press Council of India.

The Press Council of India was set up under the Press Council Act, 1978, for the purpose of preserving the freedom of the press and of maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies in India.

Although there are laws, [under Section (6) of the Cable Television (Regulation) Act 1995] to regulate content on television (i.e. to regulate programmes and advertisements), the enforcement is left to voluntary industry bodies.

Further, three voluntary and self regulatory industry bodies play an important role:

  • For advertising: The Advertising Standards Council of India
  • For television: Indian Broadcasting Foundation
  • For television news: The News Broadcasters Association

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has put out a draft Broadcasting Services Regulating Bill in 2007. This bill proposes to establish a statutory authority called the Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI), which, apart from regulating ownership of media, will evolve a ‘contents code’ which all broadcasters have to comply with. The ‘contents code’ is a pre-censorship mechanism that will regulate programmes being aired by broadcasters. The bill also regulates the sharing of content with public broadcasting services.

Recently the government has introduced some of the above provisions through the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Second Amendment Bill that had been proposed in the Draft Broadcasting Services Regulating Bill. These amendments seek to prohibit transmission and re-transmission of channels (both local and foreign) not registered and approved by the government for transmission within the country, and to increase penalties for violations of this rule.

Chapter published: 22-04-2014