HomeWorldIndia's Proposed Broadcast Bill Sparks Debate Over Regulation of Online Content

India’s Proposed Broadcast Bill Sparks Debate Over Regulation of Online Content

India is contemplating a significant shift in its approach to regulating online content with the introduction of the Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023. While primarily targeting streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, the proposed legislation’s broad language has sparked discussions about potentially extending regulations to cover individuals broadcasting news and current affairs content online, including on platforms like YouTube, WhatsApp, and Telegram channels.
The bill aims to bring streaming platforms and online news broadcasters under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, signaling a departure from the current governance under Part III of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. Although the bill directly regulates streaming platforms as over-the-top (OTT) broadcasting services, legal experts argue that the language used opens the door for including individual content creators and even social media platforms in the regulatory framework.
According to the proposed bill, individuals broadcasting news and current affairs programs online as part of a systematic business, professional, or commercial activity would be subject to adherence to the Programme Code and Advertisement Code outlined in Section 19. This has raised questions about the potential impact on independent journalists, citizen journalists, and public officials using platforms like WhatsApp channels to disseminate news content.
While the bill’s language seems to differentiate based on professional activity, legal experts suggest that the lack of clarity may lead to unintended consequences. The definition of “broadcasting” in the bill appears to focus on the transmission of audio, visual, and audio-visual programs meant for viewing, possibly excluding textual news websites. However, differing opinions exist on whether textual news websites would fall under the bill’s obligations.
The proposed legislation could have far-reaching implications for the regulation of online news content and streaming platforms in India. As the bill progresses, stakeholders will be closely watching for clarifications on its scope and applicability. The potential changes raise concerns about freedom of expression and the need to strike a balance between regulatory oversight and maintaining an open and diverse digital landscape.
Read Now:India’s New Broadcast Bill May Cover Individuals and Social Media Platforms

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