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MIB set to amend Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act

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One of the key proposals of the amendment is to include broadcasters and DPOs in the purview of the act

Amidst talks of a new National Broadcast Policy, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is looking to amend the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995 with the target of expanding the ambit of the act. After releasing a consultation paper early last year, the ministry is yet again pushing for the amendment.

As per highly placed sources, in a proposal document dated earlier this month, one of the key proposals of the amendment is to include broadcasters and DPOs in the purview of the act.

Alongside proposing a new name of The Television Transmission Network (Regulation) Act to the existing act, the said proposal highlights interesting changes.

Clearly taking away the veto from TRAI, from being defined as “the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India established under sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 (24 of 1997);] authority is proposed to be defined beyond just TRAI. The new proposed definition of authority is the ‘Telecom Regulatory Authority of India established under sub-section (1) of section 3 of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997 (24 of 1997);] or any such authority prescribed by the central government.”

Inclusion of LCO and MSO in ‘Definitions’ under ‘Cable Operator’ is also proposed. From being ‘any person who provides cable service through a cable television network or otherwise controls or is responsible for the management and operation of a cable television network and fulfils the prescribed eligibility criteria and conditions’, the proposed definition says a cable operator is “any Local Cable Operator (LCO) or Multi System Operator (MSO) as the case may be, who provides cable service through a cable television network or otherwise controls or is responsible for the management and operation of a cable television network and fulfils the prescribed eligibility criteria and conditions.”

The said proposal also includes revising the definition of the “Company” as per the new Company Act, and inclusion of definitions of “DPO”, “DTH”, “HITS”, “IPTV”, “LCO” and “MSO” in the act.

It is also apparently proposed to include broadcasters and DPOs to adhere to the defined Programme Code and the Advertisement Code.

In the existing act, it is obligatory for every cable operator to publicize the prescribed information including but not limited to subscription rate standards of quality of service and mechanism for redressal of subscriber grievances in such manner and at such periodic intervals as may be specified by the central government or the authority for the benefit of the subscriber. The amended act makes the same obligatory for DPO/LCO as well.

The proposal also includes the inclusion of DPOs in section 4(A) that talks of transmission of programmes through digital addressable systems etc.

Then there is also a proposal to include ‘broadband internet access’ in right of way.

The amended section, defining the same, is proposed to read as “Right of way for cable operators and permission by public authority:-(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, any cable operator entitled for providing cable services / broadband internet access may, from time to time, lay and establish cables and erect posts under, over, along, across, in or upon any immovable property vested in or under the control or management of a public authority.”

The proposal also highlights “shifting data maintenance from manual to electronic form” which is elaborated as  “Maintenance of register: Every cable Operator shall keep the data on programmes transmitted or re-transmitted through their Cable Network in form of Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) and electronically generated Log for a period of one year and also share the same with the Authorised Officer and the Central Government as and when required”.

The consultation paper last year also had a section on a proposal for increasing the monetary penalty amount, and insertion of a new subsection regarding penalties for violation of the Programme Code and the Advertisement Code. Contravening any of the provisions of the Act was punishable by imprisonment for a term, which may extend to two years or with fine up to  Rs 1000 or both. The proposal was to increase the fine to Rs 10, 000. For subsequent offences, the imprisonment was up to five years and the fine was Rs 5000, which was proposed to be Rs 50, 000 in the renewed act.

The punishments in case of contraventions, under the purview of the amended act, would also be applicable to broadcasters and DPOs and not just cable operators.

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