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Broadcasting Bill to 'control' digital media, put small news operators out of business

By Our Representative
 
In a submission to the I&B Ministry, the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) has raised concerns over the proposed Broadcasting Bill with its potential to control and overregulate broadcast and digital media. NWMI said, the Bill could drastically alter the media landscape in India and exhorted the government to refrain from going ahead with it without exhaustive consultations with all stake-holders.
In its detailed submission to the Central Government regarding the proposed Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill 2023 that was published by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to get feedback from the public and all stake-holders, NWMI pointed out that the government bestows inordinate powers on itself through this Bill to control the country’s entertainment and news media.
The Broadcasting Bill seeks to replace the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995, with the stated objective of providing a comprehensive regulatory regime for all forms of broadcasting content from television to streaming platforms. In its letter to the Ministry.
This intent to control and over-regulate is not in the interests of a healthy, independent media or a thriving culture of entertainment. It goes against the very foundations of media freedom in mature democracies everywhere and will irreparably damage the free press, free speech and creative freedom in India, NWMI insisted.
Since this Bill could potentially drastically alter the media landscape in India, NWMI has exhorted the government to not, under any circumstances, proceed with it without exhaustive discussions among the key stake-holders involved. Considering its far-reaching implications, NWMI said, the haste with which the Bill has been drafted and announced to the public, and the limited time provided for responses, is unacceptable.
In its clause-by-clause analysis submitted to the government, NWMI flagged several concerns, including that the draft Bill’s vaguely worded provisions, including its definition of “news and current affairs programmes”, arm it with the potential to cover individual Youtubers, the social media accounts of professional journalists and even citizen journalists.
It added, the Bill places requirements and burdens on news organisations that, while cumbersome for large broadcasting networks, could potentially put small news operators out of business.

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