I&B ministry fails to list B'cast Bill for Parliament

NEW DELHI: Indian policy-makers seem to be having second thoughts on a draft broadcasting legislation that was proposed to be introduced in Parliament session, which started Monday.

In the list of business that Parliament is to transact during the monsoon session, the Broadcast Bill, which the information and broadcasting ministry had proposed to introduce in the House, is missing.

A senior government official admitted that there might be some “re-think” on a draft that had been sent to other ministries for feedback and the I&B ministry now “doesn’t seem to hurry through the Bill.”

This is an ample indication that the Bill, termed draconian by the media industry, is highly unlikely to be introduced during the monsoon session, giving the media industry to lobby more effectively against and attempt to muzzle the media.

Still, the government official added that not listing the Bill at this juncture doesn’t mean that it cannot be pushed through in Parliament for discussion later towards the end of the ongoing session.

“It all depends on what the I&B ministry thinks. If it thinks more consultation is needed on the draft, then it would do so. If it can complete all the work quickly and get the Cabinet’s nod, then the Bill could be introduced in Parliament this session only,” the official explained.

Last week a senior I&B ministry official had told that feedback from other ministries were still awaited and the compilation work would take more than 15 days time.

The government has been facing flak from the industry and elsewhere too on the clandestine manner in which it drafted a Cabinet note on the Broadcast Bill.

Last week, as part of government-industry interaction, I&B secretary assured Confederation of Indian Industry’s media committee that a concept note on the draft Broadcast Services Regulatory Bill would be circulated for getting views of the media industry as inputs into the government's decision-making process.

Arora had lamely justified restrictive provisions in the proposed Bill as ones designed to facilitate the industry's growth and not to micro-manage its functioning.

He had explained the need for the Bill and a proposed media regulator with wide ranging powers was to provide “legislative backing to executive decisions” taken by the government in recent times.

This legislative backing was required, he had told captains of the media industry, as most of the executive decisions have been challenged in court and the government has been asked to show legislative sanction for its actions.

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