The year 2007 saw Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Parliamentary Affairs, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, take several policy initiatives and operational measures to smoothen the flow of information up to the masses and facilitating better content on the electronic media. The major initiatives included Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity’s (DAVP’s) new advertisement policy, the commissioning of new FM radio stations, the redraft of the Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill and the implementation of CAS.
With the new DAVP advertisement policy that was announced in October 2007, the quota for advertisements for small papers has been increased from 10 to 15 per cent, and from 30 to 35 per cent for medium newspapers. As per the new policy, 50 per cent of all DAVP advertisements in rupee terms would go to big newspapers, 35 per cent to medium newspapers and 15 per cent to small publications. Earlier, 60 per cent of all advertisements had gone to big newspapers, with medium and small newspapers given 30 per cent and 10 per cent advertisements, respectively.
Across the three slabs, English newspapers will now get 30 per cent of all advertisements, while Hindi and other languages will get 35 per cent each. Earlier, English newspapers were entitled to 50 per cent of all advertisements. The policy has increased support through DAVP to newspapers in regional and other languages like Bodo, Dogri, Kashmiri, Khasi, Konkani, Maithili, Manipuri, Nepali, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Urdu and tribal languages. Newspapers in these languages will now be able to empanel with the DAVP even if their circulation is less than 500 copies. Earlier, only newspapers in Sanskrit were entitled to this concession. Also, newspapers in all these languages can apply for empanelment with six months of publication experience, as against the earlier requirement of a minimum of 12 months. As for all other regional language small and medium newspapers, they can apply for empanelment after 18 months instead of 36 months.
Further, the government has relaxed the circulation check requirement this year. The new policy envisages no circulation check of newspapers with circulation of up to 25,000, against the existing limit of 6,000.
Another major initiative was taken in the FM radio space. During the period from January-November 2007, as many as 103 FM radio channels were commissioned, bringing the total number of functioning FM channels in the country to 150. The process is on for the allotment of another 97 private FM radio stationsm through the second phase of licensing.
The highly-debated Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill was redrafted after considering the comments of stakeholders. The Bill has been revised and the redrafted Bill has been posted on the website of the Ministry for wider consultations. Responses have been received for and against the Bill; the consultation process is underway. The Bill also envisages a Content Code which has also been separately posted on the Ministry’s website for wider consultation, for seeking comments from the public as well as stakeholders.
The need has been felt to regulate the content going into public domain, to ensure conformity with acceptable contemporary community standards and to protect the vulnerable sections from harmful and undesirable content on TV.
The self regulation guidelines formulated and posted on the Ministry’s website set out principles, guidelines and ethical practices, which shall guide the broadcasting service provider (BSP) in offering their programming services in India, so as to conform to the Certification Rules prescribed under the Cable Television Networks Regulations Act 1995, irrespective of the medium/platform used for broadcasting of the programme. These guidelines were drafted to introduce greater specificity and detail with a view to facilitate self-regulation by the broadcasting industry and minimise the scope for subjective decision by regulatory authorities or the broadcasting service providers. The basic underlying principle of these guidelines is that the responsibility of complying with the provisions of the Certification Rules vests with the BSP.
The conditional access system (CAS) was implemented in a smooth manner in the specified areas of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. The system has stabilised, thus giving viewers in the covered areas a better choice in terms of programmes on TV. The success of CAS has made the Government consider expanding the scheme to additional areas.
All states governments were unanimous on the regulation of content through their support for the Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, even if it implied compromising commercial interest. State governments desired that CAS should be introduced in new cities only after ascertaining the feedback of consumer satisfaction from the states where it is currently under implementation. The state governments also unanimously welcomed the new community radio policy of the Ministry. There was agreement on further reduction of entertainment tax.