Helping fix TV: what our broadcasters are missing

This is the background to a series of posts involving complaints to be sent to the BCCC and other (broadcasting) self-regulatory authorities regarding non-compliance with their respective Content Code(s). I will be putting up both my complaint(s), and the responses received to it, if any. Please do share any issues with broadcasting content which you may have so we can send that complaint in for you, or complaints which you have sent, either in the comments, or via email.

The Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) is set up under the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), which is a non-governmental body, comprising of the major broadcasters in India. Despite the BCCC being a body not strictly associated with the Government, it is headed by retired judge of either the Supreme Court or a High Court as its chairperson, and has 12 other members. The current chairperson is Justice (Retd) A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of both the Delhi and Madras High Courts. These members are chosen equally from chairpersons of statutory bodies, industry personnel, and the vague category of “eminent persons”. The current membership of the Council is detailed here.

The BCCC acts, in effect, as an appellate body, to deal with complaints which were not solved at the level of the broadcaster, which is the first stage of redressal. The self-regulatory guidelines, along with the dispute resolution mechanism are intended to create an intermediary regulatory level: prior to writing to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which also receives complaints, as required under Section 18 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. The guidelines themselves are based on a draft issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, on Self-Regulation Guidelines for Broadcasting in 2008. These guidelines would supplement the Programme Code found in Rule 7 of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994. The IBF guidelines however, stop at detailing the complaint procedure: both suo motu, and complaints made by the public. The decisions of the BCCC are based on a simple majority, and are delivered in writing to the channel/s concerned (Section 5(g) Part C).

The IBF is not the only self-regulatory authority for broadcasting content: it only regulates non-news content; the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) regulates news channels and their broadcasts. The NBA functions slightly differently. It has created both a code of ethics for its members, which appears to be the industry standard for ethical news reporting. The code also details the areas which the NBA intends to regulate (Part B). The NBA also has a set of regulations, called the News Broadcasting Standards Regulation, which constitutes the News Broadcasting Authority (Authority), and lays down its powers and functions. The Authority functions as both the rule making body, and enforcing body, with complaint redressal powers.

Membership criteria for Authority are clearer than those for the IBF. The Chairperson need only be an eminent jurist, which is more flexible than that of the Chairperson of the BCCC, who must be a former judge of either the Supreme Court or any of the High Courts. 4 more members must be editors of a broadcaster, and the last 4 comprising the Authority, are to be persons from specifically listed fields of expertise (Section 2.1-2.2, News Broadcasting Standards Regulation). Complaints to the Authority are intended to be the second-tier of complaints, the first being to the broadcaster, similar to the mechanism for the BCCC. The procedure for receipt of complaints, hearing, disposal and appeal have been detailed clearly through Section 8 of the regulations.

While these bodies regulate the content of channels broadly, the content of advertisements and complaints against them are entertained by the Advertisement Standards Council of India (ASCI). The ASCI Self-Regulatory rules for advertising conduct has attained the status of a statutory requirement, after being incorporated into Rule 8 of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994. The list of regulations the ASCI enforces can be found here. The adjudicating body, the Consumer Complaints Council, consists of 21 members: 9 are industry representatives, and the other 12 are persons with expertise in different areas, an illustrative list is seen here. In addition to the advertisement code in the Cable Television Network Rules, the ASCI has a set of self-regulation rules, found here.

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2 thoughts on “Helping fix TV: what our broadcasters are missing

  1. Pingback: Helping fix TV: Anti Tobacco Warnings | The Free Speech Initiative

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