Broadcast Law in India

Indian laws about broadcasting industry

Broadcast Law in India

The broadcast media was under complete monopoly of the Government of India. Private organizations were involved only in commercial advertising and sponsorships of programmes. However, in SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF I & B V. CAB, the Supreme Court clearly differed from the aforementioned monopolistic approach and emphasized that, every citizen has a right to telecast and broadcast to the viewers/listeners any important event through electronic media, television or radio and also provided that the Government had no monopoly over such electronic media as such monopolistic power of the Government was not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution or in any other law prevailing in the country. This judgment, thus, brought about a great change in the position prevailing in the broadcast media, and such sector became open to the citizens. 

The Broadcasting Code, adopted by the Fourth Asian Broadcasting Conference in 1962 listing certain cardinal principles to be followed buy the electronic media, is of prime importance so far as laws governing broadcast medium are concerned. Although, the Broadcast Code was chiefly set up to govern the All India Radio, the following cardinal principles have ideally been practiced by all Broadcasting and Television Organization:

To ensure the objective presentation of news and fair and unbiased comment

To promote the advancement of education and culture

To raise and maintain high standards of decency and decorum in all programmes

To promote communal harmony, religious tolerance and international understanding

To treat controversial public issues in an impartial and dispassionate manner

To respect human rights and dignity

Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 : basically regulates the operation of Cable Television in the territory of India and regulates the subscription rates and the total number of total subscribers receiving programmes transmitted in the basic tier. In pursuance of the Cable Television Network (Regulation) (Amendment) Bill, 2002, the Central Government may make it obligatory for every cable operator to transmit or retransmit programme of any pay channel through an addressable system as and when the Central Government so notifies. Such notification may also specify the number of free to air channels to be included in the package of channels forming the basic service tier. 

Direct-to-Home Broadcasting – Direct-to-Home (DTH) Broadcasting Service, refers to distribution of multi-channel TV programmes in Ku Band by using a satellite system and by providing TV signals directly to the subscribers’ premises without passing through an intermediary such as a cable operator. The Union Government has decided to permit Direct-to-Home TV service in Ku band in India. 

Film – India is one of the largest producers of motion pictures in the world. Encompassing three major spheres of activity – production, distribution and exhibition, the industry has an all-India spread, employing thousands of people and entertaining millions each year. The most important law in force regulating the making and screening of films is:

The Cinematograph Act, 1952 – The Cinematograph Act of 1952 has been passed to make provisions for a certification of cinematographed films for exhibitions by means of Cinematograph.  Under this Act, a Board of Film Censors (now renamed Central Board of Film Certification) with advisory panels at regional centres is empowered to examine every film and sanction it whether for unrestricted exhibition or for exhibition restricted to adults. The Board is also empowered to refuse to sanction a film for public exhibition.

In K. A. Abbas v. Union of India, the petitioner for the first time challenged the validity of censorship as violative of his fundamental right of speech and expression. The Supreme Court however observed that, pre-censorship of films under the Cinematograph Act was justified under Article 19(2) on the ground that films have to be treated separately from other forms of art and expression because a motion picture was able to stir up emotion more deeply and thus, classification of films between two categories ‘A’ (for adults only) and ‘U’ (for all) was brought about.

Furthermore, in Bobby Art International v. Om Pal Singh Hoon, the Supreme Court re-affirmed the afore-mentioned view and upheld the order of the Appellate Tribunal (under the Cinematograph Act) which had followed the Guidelines under the Cinematograph Act and granted an ‘A’ certificate to a film.

By Chitranjali Negi