Speaking at the inaugural session of the All India Editors’ Conference on Social & Infrastructure Issues in Srinagar on October 13, 2009, Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said that the Government would soon amend the Press & Registration of Books Act, (PRB Act) 1867 on a larger scale as the existing provisions of the Act were inadequate to cater to the phenomenal growth of the print media in view of the liberalisation of the Government policies.
She said that though the Act had been marginally amended several times between 1870 and 1983, times had changed and media representatives had also desired to contemporise the Act.
As is known, the PRB Act regulates printing presses and newspapers, and also governs the registration of newspapers. The PRB Act spells out the rules that newspapers have to conform with to be published in India.
A prepared statement from the Ministry on the Conference quoted Soni also on the fact that the I&B Ministry had convened a conference of State information ministers in November 2009 in New Delhi to discuss various issues relating to media.
Times to Amend, but include the Press
On being asked to give his views on this, Shashi Shekhar, Editor-in-Chief, Hindustan, replied, “The Government should amend this Act taking the Press people into confidence. This is a very old Act made by the British to take control over Indians. So, it ought to be improved. In the last few decades, the Indian media has seen many changes. The I&B Ministry needs to create difference between Media Presses and Commercial Presses. The system should be made more liberal and transparent.”
Harivansh, Editor of Prabhat Khabar, observed, “The PRB Act is very old and needs to be amended. It is good if Madam Minister has decided to take this step. It is a good sign for the print news industry.”
For the uninitiated, the PRB Act is a regulatory law which enables the Government to regulate printing presses and newspapers by a system of registration and to preserve copies of books and other matter printed in India. The earliest surviving enactment specifically directed towards the press was passed in 1867, and major amendments were carried out in this Act in 1955 following the recommendations of the First Press Commission in 1953, consequent upon which the Office of the Registrar of Newspapers of India (RNI) was created and started functioning in 1956.
Increase the broadcast coverage in the State of Jammu & Kashmir: Soni
Speaking at the Conference, the I&B Minister also spoke on the initiatives taken by the Ministry in Jammu & Kashmir, and said that one of the highest priorities was to improve the quality of TV and radio transmission and increase the broadcast coverage in the State. She added that a provision of Rs 1,000 million had been made in the current financial year for setting up high power TV transmitters in the border areas of the state and lower power FM transmitters in uncovered areas of the state.
The statement also said that “under the scheme, three high power (FM & TV) transmitters are to be set up at Sirpath, Jasrota Top and Khalsar in Kashmir, Jammu and Leh regions, respectively. One FM Transmitter would be provided at Naushera and one TV Transmitter for DD-1 and DD-News at Rajouri. Low power FM transmitters at four locations are also to be set up. It is also proposed to open up more towns to private FM channels with special incentives for border areas under the new FM Phase III policy, which is on the anvil.”