Draft National Broadcasting Policy ready for consultation

It also highlighted working towards strengthening self-regulation in the industry.

NEW DELHI/KOLKATA: A bid to showcase Brand India to the world, more FDI, push for indigenous manufacturing of consumer premises equipment, and self-regulation – these are key propositions of the draft National Broadcasting Policy (NBP), which the government has proposed for the growth of India’s broadcasting sector.

Stakeholders and policymakers have long felt the need for a comprehensive broadcasting policy to update the existing provisions to meet the newer challenges. Last month, the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) had intimated that work on the new policy was in full swing. The draft has now been finalised and shared with Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati and other scientific ministries for further consultations. has accessed the draft and here are some of the key takeaways from it:

Quality content, affordable and accessible to all

The draft policy aims to incentivise the creation of high quality content which is accessible and affordable to the widest audience possible. This will be done by ramping up local and regional production of broadcast content. DD will be leveraged to promote content that preserves cultural diversity and Indian value system.

The reach of public broadcaster Prasar Bharati will be maximised across the country. The policy also suggests a review and audit of ‘must provide’ and ‘must carry’ provisions in broadcasting rules and regulations, wherever applicable, to ensure availability of content everywhere. Community radio stations would also get a boost under the new draft policy. They will be able to source news and current affairs content exclusively from AIR to transmit in the local languages. The policy also makes key provisions to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to television programmes. The accessibility standards laid down by MIB will be implemented in this regard.

It also envisages the setting up of a common independent body for prompt and effective settlement of public grievances for all broadcasting platforms.

Adoption of state of the art technologies and digital switchover

In line with the Digital India initiative, the draft policy lays down strategies for wider adoption of digital technologies for terrestrial platforms. This includes phased expansion of digital terrestrial TV (DTT), roll out of a digital radio policy and cutting down costs of digital radio receivers and DTT set top boxes to spur adoption for at least three years. The I&B ministry is also looking to finally open the DTT to the private sector. The policy also aims to achieve complete transition to broadband-ready cable infrastructure by enabling upgradation to fully digital infrastructure and infrastructure sharing among distribution platform operators.

Pitch for Make in India

The policy aims to indigenise the production of consumer premises equipment including the set-top boxes, which is heavily import dependent. This will be done by setting up a self-reliant local manufacturing ecosystem. Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and other agencies will be roped in to publish the quality benchmark. Measures will also be taken to rationalise the import tariffs and provide preference to domestically manufactured electronic products and mandate increasing deployment of indigenous equipment.

Infrastructure status to broadcasting

MIB is prioritising the policies for granting infrastructure status to mass-manufactured equipment and components of broadcasting distribution services. As a part of the initiative, the ministry will prescribe minimum eligibility requirements to bring in parity with other sectors like telecom. Last month, MIB additional secretary Neerja Shekhar had also sought the industry’s support in getting infrastructure status and called on industry bodies like CII to conduct "good periodic surveys and research" on media consumption patterns that would help the ministry in formulating policies.

Greater FDI in the broadcasting sector

In its effort to catalyse the growth of the booming broadcasting industry, MIB has been focusing on foreign direct investment (FDI) policies. To attract greater FDI in the sector, it has envisaged creating an investor toolkit explaining the broadcasting supply chain with relevant rules and regulations. It also envisages establishing a liaison cell within the ministry to work on foreign investment-related complexities.

The ministry is also looking to ease the licensing and permissions regime. It will also review existing governance frameworks for both television and radio segments to ensure time-bound clearances. The policy also suggests review mechanisms for notice, disclosure, reporting of interconnection agreements between broadcasters and distribution platform operators. It will also push liberalisation in extant conditions for mergers and acquisition in the FM radio sector.

Strengthen self-regulation

The draft policy also highlighted that self-regulation is emerging as the preferred option for content governance globally and India would make efforts to strengthen it. The ministry is working to amend the old Cable TV Act and revisit content restrictions on live events on radio on the basis of consumer demand and national security considerations.  The policy will also provide statutory recognition to Programme Code and guidelines administered by the Broadcast Content Complaint Council, as well as News Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Back in December, MIB joint secretary Vikram Sahay had allayed regulatory concerns from digital players by stating that it will not strangulate creative freedom and will be in touch with the industry to iron out a model that is acceptable to all parties. However, the Centre is trying "to ensure that our consumers are protected in all ways" from fake news and other unacceptable content.

Review the current audience measurement system

In view of the recent controversy around TV viewership measurement, the policy also plans to review the current system of ratings to improve credibility. It also suggests developing a tool kit on good data practices. It will also look at SoPs for responding to cyber-security incidents for DPOs and audience measurement agencies.

Expand global footprint of Indian satellites

Of all the private satellite TV channels, around 70 per cent channels are being uplinked from foreign satellites. MIB is prioritising the matter of migration of Indian broadcasters to Indian satellites in the draft policy. To make this a reality, the ministry will look at rationalising license conditions, incentivising the migration, taking note of the industry’s requirement for Indian satellites’ footprints.

Taking the public broadcaster beyond Indian territory

MIB is upbeat about Prasar Bharati’s international expansion with the launch of Doordarshan international channel, strengthening AIR’s external services division. Among other provisions, the ministry is highly focusing on content security and content protection, fostering competition to create the level playing field, catalysing skill upgradation and development to foster better quality content, adapt with new technologies, extending the scope for co-production, student-exchange with foreign countries.

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