Govt close to coming up with National Broadcasting Policy draft: Neerja Sekhar

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At the CII Big Picture Summit, Neerja Sekhar, Additional Secretary (Broadcasting) & CVO, MIB, said the ministry was working towards declaring broadcasting an infrastructure sector

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) will soon be coming up with the draft of National Broadcasting Policy, said Neerja Sekhar, Additional Secretary (Broadcasting) & CVO, MIB, at the 9th CII Big Picture Summit.

Sekhar said, “The consultations on the National Broadcasting Policy were held by stakeholders sometime back and we have been putting the various parts together and the emerging issues as well. We are getting close to coming up with the draft version of National Broadcasting Policy.”

In 2019, Amit Khare, Secretary at MIB, had in an industry event said that the National Broadcasting Policy Regulation was being drafted in collaboration with stakeholders to address issues that are challenging the sector, and with the aim of promoting more self-regulation and less of government regulation.

Sekhar, meanwhile, also mentioned that AVGC (Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comic) is an emergent sector with a great potential. “The government is also working towards this sector and we will soon have consultation for this sector as well.”

“The AVGC sector is a hope for the media and entertainment sector, and the government is trying to establish a centre of excellence in Mumbai for this. We hope that various training programmes and trained manpower can be made available.”

Sekhar also mentioned that Media and Entertainment is one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy and therefore it’s a big hope when the industry looks towards a $5 trillion economy.

“Interestingly, all forms of media that we have — TV print, radio, film, digital — they all are growing simultaneously, it is not one at the cost of the other. All have been growing together.”

Sekhar further said that all over the world, particularly in democracies, a regulatory framework is essential for every sector to grow, because it gives broad contours; in which manner or in which direction a particular sector is supposed to grow. “In strong democracies, this regulatory framework has to be supportive so that the industry can grow. It has to be an enabling environment in which growth can be facilitated, and the media and entertainment sector is not merely about entertainment but it also brings in revenue to the government. It gives jobs, employment opportunities, it boosts exports (exporting content aboard).”

Talking about the different laws that govern the sector, she said, “We have sector-specific laws and we also have an inter-ministerial network of laws. The Cable Television Network Act just lays down a list of things to do or not to do under the programme code. It’s a self-regulation for the broadcast industry because they follow those norms which are for everybody and the sector has been growing very well on to those self-regulating codes. We have also taken a decision to decriminalize various acts. The Cable Television Network (CTN) Act is one of those acts which will be decriminalized for its offenses.”

“We have never prosecuted anybody under the CTN Act, so what’s the point of having the legislation. Also, remember the intent is not to put people behind the bars but regulate the industry in a manner which consumers expect. The consumer today is a very discerning consumer as we have seen now. Particularly, as I talk about the pandemic, the way viewership has been transformed during this year from a housewife- centric viewership to a family-oriented viewership,” she added.

“All these choices are available to the consumer through technology. As a government, we should always support emerging technologies to the extent that these become beneficial to the people, said Sekhar. “All we can do is regulate in a manner that everybody enjoys the benefits of the technology. And, essentially we in government have to converge in a manner that all the laws that we have for the sector are in harmony with each other. So that they are able to facilitate ease of doing business and ease of living so far as the sector is concerned.”

Shekhar also requested broadcasters’ support to declare M&E as an infrastructure sector.

“We also wish to support the broadcasting sector by declaring it an infrastructure sector. We have not been able to succeed with it a few times. We went to the Finance Ministry, but they were not convinced. I would like to request the broadcasting industry to support us on this because we will need your help in taking this case to the Finance Ministry to convince them that since the status of infrastructure has been given to the telecommunication sector, we are also a fit area for that. But we will not be able to do it without your support,” she remarked.

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