“We were in a hurry to pass the Broadcast Bill in the Monsoon Session to get over the legal issues involved with many of the Ministry’s notification like Uplinking and Downlinking guidelines. But when we realised that there were larger issues involved, which were critical to the broadcast industry, we decided to call back the Bill from the Cabinet and put it for public discussion,” I&B Secretary S K Arora held when asked what had prompted the Ministry to pass the Bill in Parliament without consulting the stakeholders and then retract it. Arora was briefing newspersons after a meeting with stakeholders regarding the Broadcast Bill.
It may be noted that both the Downlinking and Uplinking guidelines, which require the broadcasters to share “sports events of national importance” with Prasar Bharati, have been challenged in the Courts. In the recent appeal filed by Dubai-based Ten Sports, the Supreme Court restricted Prasar Bharati from telecasting the Sri Lanka Triangular Series for which Ten Sports has exclusive rights.
Asked whether the Bill would be presented in the Winter Session of Parliament, Arora said, “It is difficult to set a time frame. After receiving the feedback from the industry by September 11, it will take the I&B Ministry a few weeks to finalise the Draft. Then the inter-ministerial consultation will start, which will take some time.”
About the outcome of the discussion, Arora said, “Today we were on a listening brief about the comments made by the participants. We have given one month time to the stakeholders to send their comments on the Draft Bill and we will take their concerns into account and will make necessary changes if necessary.”
Asked about the concern raised by cyber law expert Pavan Duggal that the IT Act and the Broadcast Bill were conflicting in nature as both were special laws and were overriding in nature, Arora said, “We will resolve the issue after consulting with the concerned Ministry.”
Disclaiming some observations that India did not need a Broadcast Bill, Arora said, “Unregulated market is not a market. There has to be some rules that will guide the market. The Government does not have any intention to infringe upon the activities of the broadcast industry.”