This comprehensive article by Jahnavi Sharma is All You Need to Know About the Cable Television Networks Rules Amendment 2021.
Broadcasting in India was merely under the power of the government prior to the introduction of cable television. In the early 1990s, when cable networks and satellite television became popular, India’s government was blindsided. The government was powerless to stop television broadcasts and airings via foreign satellites.
In the case of Shiv Cable TV System v. State of Rajasthan, the Rajasthan High Court was the first to mention the need for a licence to operate cable networks. The district magistrate imposed a ban on cable networks in this case because they were operating without a licence. The Rajasthan High Court then challenged the district magistrate’s order, claiming that it infringed on the fundamental right to freedom of trade and profession.
The high court determined that there was no breach of the right to freedom of trade because cable networks fall under the definition of “wireless telegraph apparatus” under The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, necessitating the requirement of a licence to be used for their operation. As a result, the need for a framework for cable network regulation in India was brought to light, and the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 was authorized.
On June 17, 2021, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting introduced amendments to the Cable Television Network Rules, 1995. The amendments constitute a three-tiered grievance redress mechanism for grievances against television broadcasters. These new laws, known as the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021, will force “accountability and responsibility on broadcasters and their self-regulating bodies,” according to a government release.
Under Rules 6 and 7 of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1995, broadcasters must follow the Program and Advertising Codes. The “statutory mechanism” proposed under the amended rules mirrors the three-levelled redressal mechanism of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, to ensure stricter compliance with these codes.
Object of the Act
The purpose of the Act was to regulate the “random mushrooming of cable television networks.” The inadequacy of the licencing mechanism for cable operators has resulted in an increasing number of cable operators broadcasting programmes without even being subject to regulatory oversight. The act’s purpose was to regulate the content and operation of cable networks. This was due to the fact that signals from foreign television networks were made available through satellite communication.
Access to foreign television networks was regarded as a “cultural invasion” because they portrayed western culture. It also wanted to describe “responsibilities and obligations in terms of service quality, both technically and content-wise, the use of copyright-protected materials, the exhibition of uncertified films, and the protection of subscribers from anti-national broadcasts from sources hostile to national interests.”
Broadcasters are currently required to follow the Programme and Advertising Codes, which are outlined in Rules 6 and 7 of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1995.
2021 Amendment of the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act,1995
The amended Cable TV rules include provisions that allow the Central Government to give a cable operator an opportunity to explain itself if it believes the broadcaster has breached the Program Code or the Advertising Code. The government can then “prohibit the transmission or re-transmission” of the channel or programme in question.
The act provides a Three-level Grievance redressal system-
- Self-Regulation by broadcasters
- Self-regulation bodies of the broadcasters
- Centre’s Oversight Mechanism
Self-Regulation by broadcasters
Any viewer can file a complaint alleging a violation of the Advertising and Programming Codes, which the broadcaster must resolve within 15 days. Broadcasters must establish a redress system and appoint an officer for this purpose. This officer will act as the “point of contact” for complaints and will interact with the complainant. The broadcaster will also be required to publish on a suitable interface the contact information for its redressal mechanism and its nodal redressal officer.
Broadcasters are now required to keep records of their content for at least ninety days after it is published so that it can be requisitioned by the government if necessary. They are also required to acknowledge receipt of a complaint within 24 hours of its receipt.
Self-regulation bodies of the broadcasters
The complainant may appeal to the self-regulatory bodies of the broadcaster if they are not satisfied with the Broadcaster’s decision on their complaint or if their grievance has not been resolved. These self-regulatory bodies should deal with the complaint within 60 days and advise the broadcasters.
The Inter-Departmental Committee established under the Oversight Mechanism will hear such appeals. The committee will be chaired by the Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and will include representatives from the Ministries of Women and Child Development, Home Affairs, Electronics and Information Technology, External Affairs, and Defense, as well as representatives from other Ministries and organisations, including experts, as the Centre may assign.
Centre’s Oversight Mechanism
Not only is the third tier responsible for hearing appeals, but it also has the authority to refer complaints to the Centre. When the complaints of citizens are not resolved by the preceding two levels, an Inter-Ministerial Committee is formed to address the concerns of the citizens. A representative from each ministry, ranging from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to the Ministry of Defence, will serve on the interdepartmental committee. It will be chaired by the Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and will include representatives from a variety of ministries.
A complaint can be investigated and referred to the Inter-Departmental Committee, which can then recommend to the Centre that it issue a warning or censure a broadcaster, or that it an apology. It can also seek a warning card or disclaimer to be included, that content be deleted or modified, or that a channel or a programme be taken off the air for a specified period of time if it believes that such action is necessary. In other words, the committee can only make recommendations because the ultimate decision-making authority rests with the government.
The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 that governs the service of cable television networks in the country and related matters, was introduced with a thought that it will balance the issues regarding the television and network, and with these grievances redressal structure will give views a civil mechanism for their grievances to be addressed, which was missing till now, and had led to people filing FIRs against the makers of web shows and the platforms on which they were available. As the new rules are notified, the number of grievances should come down to nearly zero, compared to over 300 complaints that had been received till then against various shows.
 AIR 1993 Raj 197