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Convergence Bill 2001: IBF seeks level playing field

04-October-2001
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Convergence Bill 2001: IBF seeks level playing field

Broadcasters have been demanding a level playing field and their rightful share in the Convergence Bill 2001, which was introduced in the Parliament recently. The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), the apex body for broadcasters, has put down its recommendations on the various aspects of the Bill in a paper, and has sent the same to the parliamentary standing committee.

Content in electronic media, which has been a bone of contention for the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, is again a talking point in the paper presented to the parliamentary standing committee.

According to IBF paper, there should be at least five members representing the broadcasting industry forming the content bureau in the proposed Communication Commission of India (CCI). Also there should be an equal representation from telecom and broadcasting sectors in CCI. The Content Bureau, the paper adds, should include a representative of the IBF.

IBF paper on the provision of services says, that the difference between licensing and registration has not been spelt out. The paper suggests that Section 4 (1), which prohibits broadcast without licence or registration, should be reworded so that only registration is required for existing broadcasting companies.

The paper suggests that the person heading the CCI should not only be a person of eminence, but should have sufficient knowledge of the communications and broadcasting industries. Also, a majority of the whole-time members of the proposed CCI should be from the industry.

The paper prominently takes up issues concerning broadcasters programming code. It says that Section 20, which provides for the CCI to regulate and specify programme codes and standards, is not required since content is variable across media.

Hinting at the freedom of choice for broadcasters, the paper goes to say that there is not necessity to distinguish between satellite broadcasting and subscription broadcasting since the choice is a business decision and should be left to the company.

The paper also recommends that Section 28 (2) ii, which states that a service provider must endeavour to provide a suitable proportion of programmes of indigenous origin, should be deleted. Rather, commercial consideration must dictate the nature of service and content.

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