The proposed PRB Act and its implications came under the scanner on Day 2 of the Indian Magazine Congress (IMC), organised by the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM) in Mumbai on September 7, 2010. Discussing the Act were panel members Mitrajit Bhattacharya, President and Publisher, Chitralekha; Paresh Nath, Editor, Delhi Press Group and Pradeep Gupta, Managing Director, CyberMedia.
The PRB Act has been unanimously censored by the magazine fraternity. The amendments have been called ‘Draconian’ and against the interests of the publishers. Paresh Nath commenced the discussion by pointing out that the PRB laws were formed way back in 1867. The law had been in place for a century and three decades. Nath remarked, “The common conception that the law was formed by the British, for the British publisher is wrong. The purpose of the law was not to preserve whatever was printed in India, but to preserve what was printed in India at India House, in London. The publisher of the publication had to go to the District Magistrate’s office to give him a copy, which was then sent abroad.” For 80 years, till 1947, when India achieved Independence, little had changed in the law.
The first concern of the industry on PRB amendments is that they are directive in nature by the very language. The amendments appear to be discouraging ‘non-serious publishers’, but the industry is concerned because the amendment does not define ‘non-serious publishers’. Also, the PRB amendment describes the term ‘newspaper’, which alienates magazines by its very definition. It also implies that the various concessions that magazines get might also be stopped. The publishers on the panel unanimously agreed on the fact that the amendments would sabotage the freedom enjoyed by the industry.
Amongst other concerns, the PRB amendments, if brought into practice, will see the name of the owner of the printing press being given up. This is a matter of concern as owner of the printing press too (along with the publisher) could come under the legal scanner. Such a move, according to the industry, would discourage printers from printing.
CyberMedia’s Pradeep Gupta noted, “Even as laws have changed over the years for various other mediums, print is still governed by archaic laws. Since it is a sensitive industry, there has to be several laws to govern it. But there are several laws in place already and the industry doesn’t need any more laws to further bind it.”
Chitralekha’s Mitrajit Bhattacharya brought another issue to the fore, which was the ambiguity that existed in PRB amendments on foreign publications. He asked, “What is the definition of foreign publications? Is it based on the number of copies or the number of countries a publication is present in? The amendments and its directives are ambiguous.”
Also, the penalty clauses for publications have been changed and been made harsher. The industry’s charter of demands include that the Government does away with these ‘Draconian’ amendments. The industry also feels that the process of filing reports to the District Magistrate should be done away with. They also want that the process of licensing, publishing and so on to be simplified.