1 Year of Modi Govt 2.0: MIB works on strengthening broadcast system & OTT self-regulation

Apart from Prakash Javadekar’s initiatives like the Fact Check Cell, MIB has handed out some key ratifications that will have a significant impact on the media and entertainment industry

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Jun 3, 2020 9:00 AM

Modi Government 2.0 is now a year old, and the last 12 months have been rather eventful for the administration at the Centre. The changing media landscape has particularly kept the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting busy with a slew of announcements and measures undertaken.     

Under the leadership of Prakash Javadekar, MIB has not only speeded up operations of the department but also handed out some key ratifications that will have significant impact on the media and entertainment industry in the times to come.

While new facets of the ministry like the Fact Check Cell have brought in more credibility, especially for the stakeholders, its suggestion for self-regulation in the OTT sector did create a stir.

In July last year, Javadekar came up with a report card for the first 50 days of the government and said that the resolve for ‘reform, welfare and justice for all’ has been the government’s driving force. Along with this was the special mention of starting a separate TV channel for start-ups.

This February, Javadekar told the Lok Sabha that his ministry was “continuously striving to create an enabling environment for strengthening of the broadcasting system” through continuous review of policies and programmes and taking relevant measures to improve ease of doing business.

Let’s take a look at key announcements and proposals handed out by the MIB in the past year.  

Self-regulatory model without government intervention

The MIB through the year has come up with a clear mandate for the OTT industry, which in itself is making significant strides. In every meeting around the growing OTT industry in India, Javadekar has stressed how the government is in favour of self-regulation rather than setting up a statutory body.

Time and again the ministry has also assured stakeholders that the government has been striving to make it possible that all OTT players could come together on a self-regulatory model without the government’s intervention.

Through the year, the Union minster as well as other ministry officials have met stakeholders, including the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, MX Player, ALTBalaji, Hotstar, Voot and Jio. The discussions have been mostly centred on how self-regulation for content on OTT platforms should be implementable, widely acceptable and easily enforceable.

In March this year, MIB asked OTT content players to set up an adjudicatory body and finalize a code of conduct in the next 100 days.

Most OTT players are on board with MIB’s call for self-regulation as Javadekar has consistently spoken about mutually-agreeable terms and not an imposing statutory body.

Combating fake news

To fight the menace of fake news, the Press Information Bureau (PIB) set up a fact-checking unit in November 2019 where readers could get in touch with the department directly to verify a piece of news they had read, seen or heard.

On similar lines, in April 2020, MIB launched a Twitter handle for sharing all COVID-19 related updates. #IndiaFightsCorona has been launched under the handle @CovidnewsbyMIB. The purpose behind the handle was to ensure proper communication between the government and the citizens, and to leave no room for the spread of misinformation. All authentic communications from the government about the pandemic is being shared through the handle.

Content regulations, guidelines, advisories & new policies

In the past one year, the ministry has issued a host of content regulations in the form of advisories and guidelines. In order to promote Indian languages, in June 2019, MIB issued an advisory to all private television channels to carry credits at the end of programmes in the language in that they are being telecasted in and not just in English.

In September 2019, MIB also announced implementation of accessibility standard for TV programmes for those with hearing disability. The ministry also made it mandatory for all news channels to carry at least one programme a day with sign language broadcast and subtitles, while other channels were asked to have at least one show a week with similar features. The implementation of these standards was to be rolled out in phases of five years, while a review of the same is due in 2021.

On various occasions, the ministry has issued advisories for private satellite TV channels to broadcast content strictly in adherence to the Programme and Advertising Codes as prescribed in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 - be it during the coverage of Delhi riots or the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

MIB has recently issued draft policy guidelines for empanelment of social media platforms with the Bureau of Outreach and Communication. The new guidelines stipulate that social media platforms with 25 million Monthly Unique Users will be eligible for government ads. According to the new policy, the Bureau of Outreach will also be part of the bidding process that will cover buying inventory or space for government messaging. In May 2020, Javadekar proposed to raise air time for advertisements to 12 minutes from 7 minutes on community radios to bring them at par with TV channels.

Ease in licensing operations

In 2019, MIB granted licences to 151 MSOs (multi-system operators) and as on 31 December 2019, the total number of registered MSOs stood at 1,616. Between 26 November and 31 December, 2019, there were 10 additions to the list. The numbers kept adding and as on 31 January 2020, there are 1,630 Multi-System Operators (MSOs) registered with the ministry.

However, recently in February this year, the minister said that there was no proposal to levy 10 per cent licence fee across the board from broadcasters and cable operators.

With some announcements in the implementation stage and many more expected to come, it remains to be seen what new comes out of the MIB’s kitty in the next 12 months.

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