At a seminar on broadcasting content held in the Capital on Monday, July 23, 2007, private broadcasters and the government locked horns over the issue of regulating the entertainment sector, with leading private players questioning the very basis for regulation and imposing a content code. The government, on the other hand, termed the position of the broadcasters as “emotional and smacking of a trust deficit”.
FICCI had organised the industry-government interaction on ‘Regulation in the Entertainment Sector: Industry-Government Interaction’, in order to sensitise the government on the industry’s points of view on the proposed Draft Broadcasting Service Regulatory Bill and Content Regulation Code that is likely to be presented in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament.
Pankaj Pachauri, Senior Editor, NDTV India, moderated the seminar. From the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B), Zohra Chatterjee, Joint Secretary-Broadcast, Pravin Kumar, Director-Broadcast Content, and Sangeeta Singh, Director-Films, addressed the seminar. AP Parigi, Chairman, FICCI Radio Forum, who is also MD and CEO, ENIL, Chintamani Rao, CEO, India TV, Harish Doraiswamy, CEO, Zee News, and Tarun Katial, COO, BIG FM, represented the broadcast media.
Addressing the seminar, Asha Swarup, I&B Secretary, said, “The revised Bill on the proposed Broadcast Services Regulation which was announced to the media and put on the Ministry’s website on July 20, incorporates the comments and views of the industry received during the past several years.”
According to Swarup, it was incorrect to say that India was the only country that was proposing to have a content code for the broadcast sector, as such codes in different forms existed in other countries. “Within the country itself, there has always been a programme code and an advertising code as part of the licence conditions for the service providers to abide by. We have only revised these codes and propose to present them in a Content Code, in view of the discussions with industry that have been taking place since October 2005.”
Amit Khanna, Chairman of the FICCI Committee on Convergence, and Chairman, Reliance Entertainment Ltd, expressed the need for “benign benevolence” on the part of the government in drafting a forward-looking regulation. Responding to Khanna, Pradeep Singh, Additional Secretary, I&B Ministry, said, “There is no place for emotion and nobody is trying to bring in a guided democracy. If there is a trust deficit, it has to be addressed as the first priority by sitting across the table.”
Singh added that the mandate given by the government was to frame a Regulation Bill that could not be misused in future. “The Content Code already exists. It is merely being fleshed out. The code would be finalised by the Regulator in consultation with media representatives.”
Arvind Kumar, Director-Broadcast Policy & Legislation, I&B Ministry, made a presentation on the proposed Broadcast Services Regulations Bill and Draft Content Code and Guidelines. He called for a re-look at cross-media restrictions and described the sector equity caps as the worst form of piece-meal legislation.
Sunil Lulla, CEO, Times Global Broadcasting, was categorical in stating that the provisions of the Regulatory Bill would “shackle the industry, and were disabling”. He further said that the time-frame set by the government for eliciting responses -- till August 5 -- was too short as the issues involved were of vital concern to a growing economy.
Echoing Lulla’s sentiments, G Krishnan, CEO, Aaj Tak, said, “It is improper to put regulations in place. The guidelines should have been good enough. The fourth estate is like an auditor and you can’t put restrictions on auditors. Any regulation on a free press would be regressive and set us back by many, many years.”