The Information & Broadcasting Ministry’s recent steps to bring in proposed amendments in the Cinematograph Act as well as modify the Cable TV Network Rules, are being seen by legal experts as a move to bring these regulation at par with the new IT Rules that have been notified for OTT and digital news sectors.

The Ministry has sought comments from stakeholders on draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which aims to introduce age-based classification for film certification and stricter measures to curb piracy including jail term. It has also proposed provisions that will empower the Central government to direct Central Board of Film Certification to re-examine the certification of a film.

For age-based classification, the Ministry has proposed the “Unrestricted Public Exhibition” certification category (known as UA) to be further sub-divided into age-based categories such U/A 7+, U/A 13+ and U/A 16+. This will be in addition to the existing certification categories of “U” and “A”.

Tanu Banerjee, Partner, Khaitan & Co said, said, “Revisions to the film certification categories were recommended by the Shyam Benegal Expert Committee in 2016, but the Government appears to have acted on it only now. The age based rating categories for film certification now proposed in the 2021 Bill are the same as those applicable to content on digital media under the IT Rules. It does appear that the Government wants to standardize age ratings across different content exhibition mediums.”

Chandrima Mitra, Partner, DSK Legal added, “The age based certification of films has been discussed since the time of the Mudgal Committee. However with the recent abolition of the FCAT (Film Certification Appellate Tribunal) it is to be seen if these proposed certifications lead to increase in litigations and increase of the Court’s existing case loads.”

Meanwhile, legal experts also pointed out that the proposed anti-piracy provisions are in line with international practices such as those prevalent in countries like the United States, South Korea, Philippines, and United Kingdom.

Rahul Goel, Partner at AnantLaw added, “In 2019, the I&B Ministry proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act to curb piracy affecting the media and entertainment industry. Owing to critical suggestions made by the Standing Committee on Information Technology (in 2020), the revised bill has been released for public comments. The Cinematograph Bill 2021 primarily addresses measures to curb piracy of films in India vide imposition of severe punishment including imprisonment of up to 3 years.”

Last week, the Ministry also notified amendments in the Cable TV Network Rules giving statutory recognition to self-regulatory bodies. “Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules 2021 replicates the three-tier grievance redressal mechanism for digital media as recently introduced under the IT Rules 2021. The Amendment provides for similar levels of self-regulation, a self-regulatory body, and an oversight mechanism of an inter-departmental committee,” Banerjee of Khaitan & Co pointed out.

Sources said self-regulatory bodies such as Broadcasting Content Complaint Council and News Broadcasting Standards Authority will now need to register with the I&B Ministry to gain statutory recognition.