Content slot: On guidelines for television channels

Source: The post is based on the following articles

“Content slot: On guidelines for television channels” published in The Hindu on 11th November 2022.  

“It’s pointless pushing TV to serve national causes” published in the Livemint on 11th November 2022.  

Syllabus: GS 2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Relevance: About mandatorily broadcasting content.

News: Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the “Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Television Channels in India, 2022”. Under this, the channels would have to mandatorily broadcast content on themes of national importance and socially relevant issues for at least 30 minutes every day.

What are the key provisions of the guidelines?
Read here: Centre devises new guidelines for TV channels; broadcast of socially relevant topics compulsory
Why mandatorily broadcasting content is justified?

The idea of such a mandate has been around since 2008 because,

a) According to the government, airwaves and frequencies are public property and need to be used in the best interest of society. So, all channels (except foreign channels) will have to air content for the service of the public.

b) According to a FICCI-EY report, India’s television subscriptions are estimated to add another 42 million by 2025 from 178 million in 2021. Under these circumstances, public service broadcast is not a bad idea in a diverse country with myriad issues.

What are the concerns associated with mandatorily broadcasting content?

Creates room for further interference: The guidelines says “the Central Government may, from time to time, issue a general advisory to the channels for telecast of content in the national interest, and the channel shall comply with the same”. This suggests that the centre will keep an eye on the media.

Issues related to funding: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in 2008 suggested a public service obligation. The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has on-boarded it. But, there is still no clarity on compensation norms and who will fund the bill for the public service component on TV. This issue is still  persistent with the recent guidelines also.

News channels could claim the first right to protest: The air-time devoted to this exercise can easily exceed 30 minutes. So, news channels might protest the mandatory move.

So, the government has to drop its diktat of mandatorily broadcasting content.

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