The draft Broadcasting Services (Regulations) Bill 2023 has evinced mixed views from legal experts. Experts said the proposed Bill will be a paradigm shift from the Cable TV Act, and is a step in the right direction in the wake of growing digital content consumption. However, concerns have also been raised on its impact on creative freedom and increase in regulatory compliances.

Arjun Goswami, Director-Public Policy, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, said that proposed Bill “contemplates regulation of all broadcasting services, including Internet based OTTs and digital news providers, through a single legal framework. Given that the IT Rules, 2021 (framed under the IT Act) also contain requirements for OTTs and digital media, it remains to be seen how the two frameworks intertwine”.

Utsav Trivedi, Managing Partner, TAS Law said considering the recent advent and surge of OTT content providers, consolidating and regulating the provisions for various broadcasting services under a single legislative purview is a “good move”. However, he added that the proposed Bill may act as “double-edged sword” with “enabling chances” that it “may seek to curb the creative freedom of broadcasters and OTT platforms”. Trivedi added that the Ministry will need to “strike a balance between the governmental and legislative intent behind the upcoming Act, and also catering to the creative freedom of the broadcasters and OTT platforms”.

Some experts have also raised concerns about the increase in compliances. For instance, the draft Bill states the every broadcaster or broadcasting network operator will need to constitute one or more Content Evaluation Committees (CECs) consisting of eminent individuals representing various social groups.

“In addition to original domestic content, most OTT platforms licence content from abroad, subjecting each such creative content to CEC scrutiny will definitely impose burdens on the OTT platforms and impact user experience, too,” said Ranjana Adhikari, Partner, IndusLaw.

‘Need of the hour’

Tushar Agarwal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, noted that the proposed Bill is a “paradigm shift” from the three-decade-old Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act and the “need of the hour”, in view of the growing digital wave. “It is necessary that in this growing digital era, the new Bill should not increase redtapism in the field of broadcasting services. Further, the enforcement of regulations over the OTT platforms should be free from any political or other extraneous influences,” he added.