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Kerala HC admits NBA's petition against amendments in Cable TV rules

The court also directs I&B Ministry not to take any coercive action against broadcasters

Kerala High Court has admitted the writ petition filed by News Broadcasters Association against the recent amendments to Cable TV regulations. Justice TR Ravi, while admitting the petition, directed that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting “shall not take any coercive action against broadcasters”.

Last month, the Centre had amended the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 and pubished Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021 to provide a three-layer statutory mechanism for the redressal of complaints relating to content broadcast by television channels.

With this move, the government aims to bring the television industry’s self-regulatory mechanism on a par with that for OTT players and digital news publishers, through the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

The amended rules have mandated a three-layer grievance redressal mechanism – self-regulation by broadcasters, self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of broadcasters and an oversight mechanism by the Central government.

A person can write to the broadcaster first to register his/her complaint in case of any grievance against a programme. The broadcaster has to acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and dispose of it within 15 days. If the complainant doesn’t receive a response within 15 days or is dissatisfied with the response, they can appeal within 15 days to the self-regulating body (SRB), of which the broadcaster is a member. The SRB has to dispose of the complaint within 60 days. In case the complainant is still not satisfied, they can appeal to the Central Government for its consideration under the Oversight Mechanism.

At present, there is an institutional mechanism by way of an Inter-Ministerial Committee to address such grievances of citizens. With the amendment, this will be replaced by an Inter-Departmental Committee, which will be chaired by the Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and consisting of representatives from different ministries.

This has raised concerns among broadcasters about censorship.

Last week, the High Court had passed similar order in a writ petition filed by NBA against Digital media rules under the IT Rules, 2021.

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