Television

Content Code: MIB places self-regulation guidelines before Court

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NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting today placed before the Delhi High Court a Self Regulatory Guidelines for the Broadcasting Sector (2008) that proposes a two-tier regulatory set-up to be run entirely by broadcasters, with the key being adherence to the Certification Rules of the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995.

The contentious issue of Content Auditor has been dealt with extensively in the Guidelines, giving the industry the powers they wanted, by removing the clause in the earlier Code that said that the Auditors would have to report issues of non-compliance to the government.

Now, the Auditors would report violations to the Chief Editor and it would be his responsibility finally on what goes on air.

The Guideline says that only cases in which the Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) would take action - suo moto or on receiving a complaint - would be violations of the Certification Rules that have repercussions on the security or integrity of the country or contravene restrictions under the Theme 6 (Regulation & Community) or Theme 9 (General Restrictions) of the Certification Rules.

Also, segment-wise Broadcast Consumer Complaint Committees would have to be set up, which would include separate committees for MSOs (multi-system operators), LCOs (local cable operators), the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), News Broadcasters Association (NBA), Association for Radio Organisations of India, Community Radio Forum and the Prasar Bharati.

The BCCCs would have wide-ranging powers, including directions to channels not to telecast programmes or advertisement, "pending discussion"; to edit the advertisement or programme, and order any punitive action "in accordance with the constitution of the BCCC of the relevant segments of the industry".

While the First Tier would ensure self-regulation at the BSP level, the Second Tier would be the domain of the industry as a whole.The BCCCs would play their role there, again a new concept ushered in by the Guidelines.

"At both the tiers, it will be the industry that would regulate itself, which was their demand and so what more can one ask for?" said an MIB official, without wanting to be identified.

A copy of the Guidelines is exclusively with indiantelevision.com.

The first tier would be at the Broadcast Service Provider (BSP) level, where each such BSP would have to have its "own internal mechanism to comply with the Rules, for which it may appoint one or more Content Auditor of requisite qualification and experience".

Each channel would have to provide details of its Content Auditor/s on its website and channel for information of the public, and the information would have to be notified to the MIB.

It says: "For the purpose of ensuring compliance, each BSP may develop its own internal guidelines and procedures. However, each BSP shall consult its Content Auditor/s for assigning appropriate categorisation as per the Rules in respect of each programme / advertisement.

"The Chief Editor of the channel, by whatever designation he is known in the channel shall be responsible for the final decision to accept or modify the guidance given by the Content Auditor", and shall be "finally responsible for self-regulation and ensure compliance with the Rules".

Another new aspect in the Guidelines is to deal with Live and interactive programmes.

In these, the government felt, that participants' words or ideas or gestures cannot be edited out, so the Chief Editor would have to satisfy himself that adequate briefing have been given to the participants about the certification norms and indemnify the BSP against any deliberate violations by them.

An important new aspect that had been a demand of the industry, especially the news channels, has been taken care of, wherein the Guidelines says that while the Content Auditor would bring to the notice of the Chief Editor any violation of the Rules, "The ultimate decision of such a matter shall be the responsibility of the Chief Editor."

The second tier would be at the Industry Level, at which the "Central Government or the Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India would appoint industry-segment level organisations to set up their respective Broadcast Consumers Complaint Committees, who would have to deal with and respond to complaints within specific time limits."

It is here that the MSOs and LCOs have been empowered for the first time to set up their own BCCCs to deal with programme content complaints from subscribers.

The list of other industry-segments that would have to set up their own BCCCs include the IBF, NBA, Association of Radio Operators of India, Community Radio Forum and Prasar Bharati.

The Introduction to the Guidelines says: "These Guidelines set out principles… and ethical practices which shall guide the BSPs on offering programming services…" and also says that "These Guidelines have been drafted to introduce greater specificity …and minimse scope for subjective decision by the regulatory authorities or the BSPs."

Since the Guidelines are self-regulatory, which has been a consistent industry demand, the onus, the government says, would be on the BSP when forming a view on the acceptability of any programme.

The industry demand for watershed timing has been accepted and made progressive, from 8 pm onwards, under the assumption that from that time of the day "parents are expected to share the responsibility of what their children are permitted to watch on TV".

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