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New convergence bill draft envisages content, carriage bureaux

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There seems to be no end to the modifications that are being envisaged for the Communications Convergence Bill. The revised draft of the Communications Convergence Bill 2001 has just been re-revised. Industry sources indicate that at the latest meeting of the Group on Telecom and IT (GOT-IT) held on 21 July, it has been proposed that within the ambit of high-powered Communications Commission of India that the bill envisages, there should be two separate bureaus - a carriage bureau and a content bureau.

Earlier talk was around content management remaining a part of the convergence bill. And the information and broadcasting ministry was to convene a forum for the media industry to discuss the nature of the "content" bureau within the CCI.

Information and broadcast minister Sushma Swaraj's idea was that all content, including that relating to the Internet, should be regulated by a content bureau. Swaraj wanted that communications should be delinked from the ambit of the bill, the sources say. The telecom and communications ministries strongly opposed this pointing out that the it negated the whole concept of convergence. It was after this that a compromise formula was adopted where there would be two bureaus - a carriage bureau and a content bureau.

The revised bill prepared by the sub-group under Fali Nariman will have to be sent to Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, who heads GOT-IT, and the prime minister. Then it will probably be referred to the Standing Committee. After which we can expect it to be put on the government website for invitations for further suggestions from the public. In this scenario how the government plans to keep to its stated aim of tabling the Bill in parliament during the upcoming monsoon session remains a mystery.

One thing has been agreed upon though. When the bill is finally ready for introduction in parlaiment it will be piloted by the communications ministry, the sources say.

To read the January 2001 modification of the convergence bill click on the link below.

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