Expert Committee needed to tackle technological issues relating to cable TV: Parliamentary Committee

NEW DELHI: A technical expert body should be set up or the mandate and infrastructure of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India should be widened for handling the issues of technological nature with the regard to the cable television industry in the country, according to a Parliamentary Committee.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology said in a recent report that the Secretary in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry had himself apprised the Committee about the constraints being faced in handling the issues of technological nature. The Secretary had acknowledged the need to set up Expert Bodies to ‘really advise and guide the Ministry on the matter’.

The Committee observed that with multiple transformations all over the world in the technologies available in the media and entertainment sector, there is an urgent need to have expertise to assist and advise the Ministry in handling the issues related to emerging technologies.

In a report for examining the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) (Second Amendment) aimed at checking telecast of illegal channels, the committee also strongly recommended that there is an urgent need to have some structured mechanism to have inter-Ministerial consultations and coordination between the various Ministries/Agencies dealing with technological issues related to media transmission.

The proposed amendment to the cable act seeks to check transmission of illegal channels by cable operators in spite of various measures taken within the ambit of the extant law to stop carriage of these illegal channels. The amendment aims to make the provisions more stringent and also to enhance the punishment, in order to have the necessary deterrent effect.

The Committee noted that the administrative Ministry for legislative framework with regard to Internet is the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, while the Information and Broadcasting Ministry is the nodal Ministry for media.

Internet plays an important role and in the context of the present legislation one of the medium for watching TV is internet, the Committee said, expressing constraint that ‘there is no mechanism to have inter-Ministerial coordination between the various related Ministries – the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, the Department of Telecommunications etc.

The Committee also said there is urgent need to involve the consumer/subscriber in the whole process of implementation of the provisions made under the Cable Act. The involvement of the elected representatives would also address the constraints being faced in implementation of the provisions made under the Cable Act.

There was an urgent need to create awareness about the provisions made in the Cable Act that prohibit the cable operator to show the illegal channels.

Noting that information relating to registered channels is available on the website of the Ministry, the Committee said it may be difficult for agencies involved as well as the public at large in view of the poor broadband connectivity in border areas.

The Committee recommended that pamphlets containing the information should be made available to the agencies involved in enforcement of the provisions of the Cable Act. For wider dissemination, the local bodies should also be supplied copies of the pamphlets and made aware about the positions in this regard.

The Committee are of the firm view that the issue of showing illegal channels by cable operators can be addressed by taking certain pro active initiatives.

The Secretary himself acknowledged that while the problem has been very real in a large number of cases, there has been reluctance on the part of local administration to act against such cable operators. In some cases, action by the local administration raised such a socio-political crisis that the action was withdrawn.

The Committee was told that individual subscribers can lodge complaints in this regard to Authorized Officer or report the matter to District/State Level Monitoring Committees.

The Committee recommended toll free helplines to help the consumers to lodge the complaint in this regard to the Authorized Officer or report to State/District Level Monitoring Committee. Besides, a National Helpline should also be set up to facilitate lodging of complaint by the individual consumer/subscriber from all over the country.

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