Industry to be consulted on content regulator, says Swaraj

NEW DELHI: Information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj said in the morning today that the government will consult the industry and other stake holders before forming the Broadcasting Regulatory Authority (BRA) to monitor content on TV.

Early information gathered by shows that the proposed BRA will be responsible for formulation of programming and advertising codes for television broadcasting.

According to government sources, the proposed regulator would be given powers to implement its guidelines and maybe powers to penalise defaulters. They also added that the BRA may function as a quasi-judicial organisation on the lines of the earlier version of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) which also had powers to settle disputes and penalise errant telecom companies.

The sources added that the licensing powers would rest with the ministry of information and broadcasting, unlike as envisaged for the super-regulator for the IT, broadcasting and telecom sector in the Communications Convergence Bill 2001.

According to senior government officials, BRA would also function and have powers on the lines of the proposed content bureau as envisaged in the Communications Convergence Bill.

BRA is another step taken by Swaraj to get in place legislation relating to broadcasting in a piecemeal fashion and ahead of the Communications Convergence Bill that has got delayed because of a report of the Standing Committee on IT & telecom which has, amongst other things, questioned the very need for an omnibus convergence law at this moment.

The broadcasting regulator would have powers to make appropriate recommendations to the government with regard to any programming and advertising codes.

According to the sources, BRA would address concerns of public order and decency, preservation of cultural diversity, prevention of excessive depiction of sex and violence, national security, integrity and sovereignty and protection of children from undesirable programmes and advertisements --- issues which have been irking members of parliament.

The proposed regulator would also have powers to issue regulations, specific codes and standards to ensure fairness and impartiality in views expressed aired in programmes.

According to sources, one of the options under consideration includes, giving quasi judicial powers to the regulator. This would give the regulatory authority adequate powers to penalise channels, which do not toe the BRA's line.

The ministry earlier had planned to set up a media council replacing the Press Council which would also have the broadcasting media under its ambit. However, with content regulation on TV falling under the purview of the proposed super-regulator Communication Commission of India, the plan was dropped.

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