Swaraj pushes for Broadcasting Regulatory Authority

NEW DELHI: Trust India's information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj to drive to the hilt the advantage she has gained in recent times. Now she is pushing for a Broadcasting Regulatory Authority.

Egged on by her, the Parliamentary Consultative Committee, attached to India's information and broadcasting ministry, in a meeting earlier today, came out strongly in favour of forming a regulatory body to monitor unregulated content on television channels in the country as soon as possible.

Members of Parliament, cutting across party lines, said that this was necessary in order to address the concerns of public order and decency, preservation of cultural diversity, prevention of excessive depiction of sex and violence, national security, integrity and sovereignty of the country and protection of children from undesirable programmes and advertisements, government sources told

The issue is being seen as another step taken by I&B minister Sushma Swaraj in recent times to have in place a legislation to regulate the broadcasting and cable sectors in a piecemeal fashion, ahead of an omnibus legislation being proposed to govern the three sectors of media, information technology and telecommunications.

According to the sources, presiding over the meeting, Swaraj fully shared the concerns of the members and said that the ministry would consider setting up of an independent Broadcasting Regulatory Authority. According to Swaraj, the earlier Broadcasting Bill was not pursued in view of the introduction of the Communication Convergence Bill 2001 that had a provision for setting up of a panel for content regulation.

The members felt that in case of a delay in finalising the Convergence Bill, the government should move ahead towards regulating content since the programmes on various television channels were becoming increasingly unwholesome.

Merely waiting for the Convergence Act would not help, they are reported to have chorused ---- something which Swaraj, on being criticised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for getting legislations passed in a piecemeal fashion, had reiterated in Parliament earlier.

IT, telecom and parliamentary minister Pramod Mahajan had some time earlier told that he does not foresee the Communications Convergence Bill, envisaging a super-regulator for IT, broadcasting and telecom, being discussed by policy-makers in Parliament before May 2003.

Meanwhile, arguing strongly for the immediate need of content regulation, Saroj Dubey, a BJP Member of Parliament during the meeting today said women are projected in a very bad light through some serials and advertisements on some channels.

Another MP, Vijay Darda, said that the proposed Authority must have adequate powers to punish the defaulters and should not be like the Press Council of India, which is unable to enforce its decisions. Kartar Singh Duggal said that the Authority be set up immediately without waiting for the Convergence Bill's passage in Parliament and, at the same time, the script writers, artists, producers, broadcasters, advertisers and the viewers may be made aware of their obligations.

E. M. Sudarsana Natchiappan said the glorification of drinking, smoking, sex, violence and degraded values must not be allowed to be carried on. Abdul Rashid Shaheen shared the concerns but wanted detailed discussions both in and outside the Parliament.

Other MPs who wanted immediate action included C Narayana Reddy, G Sukhender Reddy, D Ramanaidu, Ram Naresh Tripathi, Lalhmingliana and Ajay Maroo.

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