I&B minister Dasmunsi hints at major revamp of draft broadcast bill

NEW DELHI: You can kiss the Broadcast Services Regulation Bill 2006 - a draft of which is doing the rounds of various ministries and industry stakeholders these days - goodbye, Well, almost.

"Whenever I bring a Bill to Parliament, it'd be the most media-friendly legislation in the whole world," information and broadcasting minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi today said, hinting that the draft is likely to go undergo major revamp.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a Cabinet briefing, Dasmunsi added that proper consultation with various stake holders would be held before draft legislation is taken to the Union Cabinet or Parliament.

Asked by whether the Broadcast Bill 2006 would be tabled in Parliament during the forthcoming monsoon session, the minister said the endeavour be so "after holding discussions with everybody."

"Our effort and endeavour would be to do so during this session and if that does not happen, then we'll see in the next session. We would not do anything to gag the media," Dasmunsi explained, making it clear that the government has taken serious view of the all round stringent criticism of a draft media legislation.

The monsoon session of Parliament begins on 24 July and there seems little time left to hold proper discussions with the industry on the Bill, which has been drafted surreptiously and left the players stumped when unraveled by a section of the media.

Making an overt bid to keep in good humour the media, which came in for praise from the Cabinet today for its sensitive coverage of the serial Mumbai blasts earlier this week, Dasmunsi said, "All fears (of broadcast industry) will be removed."

Proposals on cross media restrictions, powers bestowed on authorities to take action against the media and TV channels on the flimsiest of grounds, content censorship (which is being drafted separately, but could be made part of this Bill or legislation at a later stage) are aimed at strangling the media and cripple business models in the name of safety against monopolistic trends.

The proposed autonomous Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India (Brai) has been given powers in the Bill that permit it to run amok if interpreted incorrectly by it. What's more, Brai's chief executive would be a serving government official of additional secretary's rank, drawing a salary from the government.

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