Unveiling the Draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023 : Daily News Analysis

Date : 20/11/2023

Relevance: GS paper 2 - Governance- Policies and Intervention

Keywords: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill 2023, Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995,


In recent developments, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has unveiled the draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, intending to replace the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995. The new bill proposes a unified regulatory framework covering broadcasting, OTT, Digital Media, DTH, and IPTV. To comprehend the significance of this proposed change, let's delve into the objectives and key provisions of the existing Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, of 1995.

OTT Platform:

  • An OTT platform, or Over-The-Top platform, streams content over the Internet without requiring traditional cable or satellite TV subscriptions.
  • Users can access diverse content, including movies, TV shows, live events, and originals, on devices like smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and computers.
  • Examples include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+.

IPTV and Regulation:

  • IPTV (Internet Protocol television) delivers television programming via the Internet
  • MIB regulates IPTV through specific Guidelines for the Provisioning of Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Services.
  • Cable operators providing IPTV services are governed by the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 and other applicable laws.
  • The Programme and Advertisements Code applies, ensuring content conformity.

Objectives and Key Provisions of Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995:

The act was enacted to combat the proliferation of illegal cable television networks and regulate programming and advertising content on television.

Key Provisions:

  1. Cable Operator Registration: Only registered cable operators can operate a cable television network.
  2. Digital Addressable System: Cable operators must transmit programs in encrypted form through a digital addressable system as mandated by the authorities.
  3. Authorized Officers: District magistrates, sub-divisional magistrates, and police commissioners serve as authorized officers to ensure compliance with the Programme Code.
  4. Prohibition of Certain Programs: Authorized officers can prohibit the transmission of programs promoting disharmony or ill-will among various groups.
  5. Parliamentary Authority: The Parliament can prohibit the operation of cable television networks in the interest of the public.
  6. Penalties for Contravention: Violations of the act result in legal consequences for the offenders.

Understanding the Regulatory Landscape in the Indian Television Industry:

Historical Developments:

  • The 1995 CTNR Act mandated cable providers to register and transmit Doordarshan channels.
  • STAR TV faced accusations of cultural invasion in 1995, echoing current concerns about platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Amendments and Government Intervention:

  • The 2003 amendment aimed at transparency but fell short due to industry interests, leading to conspiracy and lack of consumer protection.

Government Regulation Aimed at Control:

  • The CTNR Act and its amendments reflected the government's attempt to control communication infrastructures rather than ensuring transparency and consumer protection.

Key Highlights of Draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023:

Consolidation and Modernization:

  • The bill consolidates and modernizes regulatory provisions for various broadcasting services under a single legislative framework.
  • It extends regulatory purview to OTT content and digital news, currently regulated through the IT Act, of 2000.

Contemporary Definitions and Provisions:

  • The bill introduces comprehensive definitions for contemporary broadcasting terms and provisions for emerging technologies

Strengthening Self-Regulation:

  • It enhances self-regulation with 'Content Evaluation Committees' and evolves the 'Broadcast Advisory Council.'

Statutory penalties:

  • The Bill provides statutory penalties like advisory, warning, censure, or monetary penalties, for operators and broadcasters.
  • Provision for imprisonment and fines is also there, but only for very serious offenses, such as obtaining registration with a false affidavit.

Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities:

  • Provisions are included to address the needs of persons with disabilities through comprehensive accessibility guidelines.


  • Modernization of the Broadcasting Sector: The legislation modernizes the regulatory framework of the broadcasting sector, replacing outdated Acts, Rules, and Guidelines with a unified, forward-looking approach.
  • Adaptation to Technological Advancements: It adapts to the dynamic landscape of OTT, Digital Media, DTH, IPTV, promoting technological advancement and facilitating the evolution of services.
  • Efficient Relocation and Alterations: The Bill streamlines the 'Right of Way' section, enhancing efficiency in addressing relocation and alterations, and establishes a structured dispute resolution mechanism.
  • Fair Monetary Penalties: Monetary penalties and fines are linked to the financial capacity of entities, considering their investment and turnover, ensuring fairness and equity in enforcement.
  • Inclusivity: The Bill aims to enhance inclusivity, making broadcasting more accessible to people with disabilities.

Concerns Around Draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023:

Concerns about Representation:

  • The bill raises concerns about potential erasure or selective representation of Indian minority communities, shaping a dominant narrative.

Ambiguous Framing:

  • Specific concerns arise about the broad and ambiguous framing of point 36, granting ultimate power to the authorized officer to prohibit transmissions.

Reinforcing Government Influence:

  • Experts express worries about potential government influence in the regulatory process, potentially compromising impartiality.

Way Forward:

Global OTT Regulations:

  • In Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority serves as the common regulator for various media.
  • The approach includes instituting a statutory framework, promoting industry self-regulation, and emphasizing media literacy through public education.

Media Regulation and Civil Society's Role:

  • Emphasizes the importance of improved self-regulation within the media industry.
  • Argues against government-led media regulation to preserve the intended purpose. Advocates for an informed, cultivated and engaged civil society as the most effective watchdog over politics and the media.


The proposed Broadcasting Services Bill sparks concerns about excessive government control over digital infrastructure and media ownership by a few major companies. Addressing conflicts of interest is paramount for ensuring fair business practices, and regulatory measures should prioritize establishing trust in the industry. The government should focus on implementing effective conflict-of-interest regulations to foster transparency and ethical conduct in the media sector.

Probable Questions for UPSC mains Exam-

  1. Question 1: How does the Draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, address the evolving landscape of broadcasting services, particularly with its inclusion of OTT content and digital news, and what are the key implications for industry stakeholders and consumers? (10 Marks, 150 Words)
  2. Question 2: In light of concerns raised about potential government influence and selective representation of minority communities, what measures can be implemented to strike a balance between effective regulation of the broadcasting sector and safeguarding against undue control or bias? (15 Marks, 250 Words)

Source- Indian Express