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Prasar Bharati can't be regulator: Parliamentary panel

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NEW DELHI: Content on the idiot-box and its regulation may have become a hot issue (no pun intended here), but a parliamentary panel has shot down a government suggestion that India's pubcaster Prasar Bharati be empowered through a legislation to regulate content on TV channels.



Even while agreeing with the information and broadcasting ministry that there is an imperative need to check content on TV channels, private or otherwise, the parliamentary panel has observed, "The committee do(es) not endorse its view with the ministry that Prasar Bharati should be empowered to check or regulate...programme/ads being broadcast by cable operators or satellite channels."



The I&B ministry had submitted before the Standing Committee on information technology (that also deals with matters related to broadcasting) that previous attempts to check indecent programming and advertising on TV channels, specifically private ones, had come a cropper. A proposed omnibus legislation encompassing IT, telecom and broadcast sectors too has lapsed.



Pointing out that the ministry itself would not be able to control/regulate content on TV channels as "there is no regulatory mechanism," a ministerial representative had submitted before the parliamentary panel that Prasar Bharati be empowered through an amendment in the Prasar Bharati Act and other related legislation to act as a content regulator.



Prasar Bharati is an autonomous organisation that manages the affairs of Doordarshan and All India Radio.



"The representative of the ministry added that implementation of this Act (the Cable TV Networks [Regulation] Act, 1995 in this context (indecent and surrogate programming and advertising) had been found hardly fruitful because these (designated) authorities were extremely busy and hardly had time to concentrate on these issues," the standing panel report states.

According to the report, a copy of which is available with indiantelevision.com, "The ministry, therefore, requested that Prasar Bharati should be empowered in the Act to prohibit, regulate and check on quality and indecent content being telecast by satellite channels or cable operators."



Interestingly, the reason given by the parliamentary panel in not favouring Prasar Bharati as a content regulator is because Prasar Bharati was an interested player in the whole game as a broadcaster.



"Keeping in view the fact that Prasar Bharati and cable operators (meaning private satellite channels) are competitors to each other," the pubcaster's candidature could not be 'endorsed'," the panel noted in its fourth report tabled in Parliament on Monday.



However, the panel directed the government to take up the content regulation issue in all earnest, giving it "top priority without delay."



Pointing out that the panel should be kept apprised of developments on this front, the report states, "Government should initiate amendments in the existing Cable TV Network (Regulation) Act in order to constitute an independent and permanent regulatory body."

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