The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Thursday amended the Cable Television Network (CTN) rules from 1994 and put in place a new mechanism for redressing complaints, a Press release specified. The new mechanism brings cable television in line with the requirements of news media and over-the-top streaming platforms (OTT) according to IT regulations issued in February 2021.

The change, which applies to over 900 television channels, “paves the way for a strong institutional system to resolve grievances, while giving broadcasters and their self-regulatory bodies accountability and responsibility,” the communication said.

What does the new complaint mechanism look like?

The amended rules, known as the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021, introduce a three-tier grievance mechanism:

1. Self-regulation of broadcasters: The broadcaster must appoint a complaints officer and make his contact details public. Complaints can be submitted directly to the officer by viewers if the complainant believes that the broadcaster is not complying with the programming code or the advertising code of the rules. The sender should acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and respond to it within 15 days.

2. Self-regulation by the self-regulatory bodies of the broadcasters: If the complainant is not satisfied with the sender’s response, the complaint can escalate the matter to the self-regulatory authority to which the sender belongs. This body should respond to the complainant within 15 days and provide advice or guidance to the broadcaster within 60 days.

The self-regulatory bodies must consist of at least 40 broadcasters and must be directed by a retired Supreme Court or Supreme Court judge or an eminent person in the media or related fields. These self-regulators have thirty days from the date the regulations are announced to register with the government.

3. Central government oversight by an interdepartmental committee (IDC): If the complainant is not satisfied with the self-regulatory authority’s response, he can contact the interdepartmental committee within 15 days. This committee can also take complaints submitted directly to the government.

The IDC may recommend that the government advise, warn, censure, admonish, censure, or apologize to a broadcaster. It can also ask the broadcaster to attach a warning card or a disclaimer, to delete or change content or to take the channel or program off television for a certain period of time if it is convinced that such a measure is justified.

The IDC is headed by the additional secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and consists of members from the Ministry of Women’s and Children’s Development, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, representatives from other ministries and organizations, and other experts.

Broadcasters are also expected to publicly disclose any complaints they have received, the responses they have given, the actions they have taken, and the instructions they have received from the self-regulatory authority or the government regarding complaints .

In accordance with the IT rules 2021

The grievance mechanism for cable television is now the same as that envisaged by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for news media and OTT streaming platforms in the IT rules 2021.

The Department of Information and Broadcasting on May 26th ordered only digital media companies, over-the-top streaming platforms and traditional media companies to provide information about their operations to the Department within 15 days. The information you are looking for includes publisher / platform website url, mobile apps, company information, contact information, news editor information, and Details of your complaint process like the name of the complaints officer and the self-regulatory body to which the mediator belongs.

However, the ministry said yesterday in response to an RTI request to MediaNama that registration of self-regulators for news organizations and streaming services is still pending. The IT rules were announced on February 25th, which means it has been more than three months, which is well beyond the original timeframe for the registration of news and streaming self-regulators. The longer registration turnaround time reflects the complications involved in setting up these organizations and the concerns the industry has expressed about the burdens of compliance.

Why was this change made?

According to the press release, the government made this change for the following reasons:

  1. Need for a legal mechanism: Although there is currently a mechanism in place to allow an inter-ministerial committee to deal with complaints from citizens related to violations of the Programming and Advertising Code in accordance with the rules, the government believed that a legal mechanism to “amplify the complaint” was formalized must be a reparation structure. “
  2. Legal recognition vis-à-vis associations / committees: In addition to developing their own complaint mechanisms, many broadcasters are part of self-regulatory associations / bodies. The change enables these self-regulatory bodies to legally register with the government.

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