Explained: I&B Ministry’s powers to regulate content on TV, other platforms

What is the news?

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry(I&B) has informed Media One, a Malayalam-language news channel, that its broadcast licence had been cancelled.

Which sectors can the I&B Ministry regulate content?

Earlier, the I&B Ministry had the powers to regulate content across all sectors — TV channels, newspapers and magazines, movies in theatres and on TV, and the radio – barring the internet. 

But after the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the power has been extended over internet content too, especially on digital news platforms and OTT platforms.

What kind of content is not allowed by the Government?

There are no specific laws on content allowed or prohibited in print and electronic media, radio, films or OTT platforms.

The content on any of these platforms has to follow the free speech rules of the country, Article 19(1) of the Constitution, while protecting the freedom of speech also lists certain “reasonable restrictions”.

Action can be taken if any of these restrictions is violated.

What kind of powers does the I&B Ministry have?

Movies: Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has a mandate to give any film that will be played in a theatre, a rating indicating the kind of audience it is suitable for.

TV Channels and OTT Platforms: IT Rules, 2021 came up with a three-tier grievance redressal structure for viewers to raise concerns. A viewer can successively approach the channel, then a self-regulatory body of the industry, and finally the I&B Ministry which can issue a show cause notice to the channel and then refer the issue to an inter-ministerial committee(IMC). For content on OTT platforms too, there is a similar structure.

Electronic Media Monitoring Cell: It is under  I&B Ministry. It tracks channels for any violations of the programming and advertising codes mentioned in the Cable TV Network Rules,1994. Violation can lead to revocation of a channel’s uplinking licence (for sending content to a satellite) or down-linking licence (for broadcasting to viewers through an intermediary). 

Print: In print, based on the recommendations of the Press Council of India, the government can suspend its advertising to a publication

Source: This post is based on the article Explained: I&B Ministry’s powers to regulate content on TV, other platformspublished in Indian Express on 8th Feb 2022.

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