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Who decides which states or regions will be able to access certain channels? There are a few regional channels in the southern states of India that cannot be found in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal or West Bengal. Similarly, all Bengali broadcast networks are not available in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka or Kerala. There are thousands of different television channels thanks to the rapid expansion of TV broadcast services and networks. You are right, there is something known as broadcast law that decides the content quality and the permits of certain networks in a country.
The law that regulates broadcasting content on TV and radio is broadcast law. It not only oversees the reach of a network, but it also regulates other parameters like regionalism, and localism. Recently, there has been raging controversies regarding the content and language of a certain Netflix original series. That shows that broadcast law also oversees the profanity and copyright issues of the content across multiple platforms. It extends to cable TV, satellite TV and related services like cable radio and satellite radio.
Who oversees broadcasting in our country?
In the US, the Federal Communications Commission looks after the broadcasting regulations. Similarly, in the UK, it is the responsibility of the Office of Communications (Ofcom) since 2002. In India, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) takes care of the broadcast guidelines, laws and compliance. Less than a year ago, was Show Caused by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) for telecasting a superstitious ritual that involved irresponsible handling of an infant.
Although the programme aimed at bringing attention to the superstitious practices that go on in the country and discouraging such dangerous behaviour, the particular channel was given the opportunity to present their side of the story during a personal hearing. After the hearing, the central government, exercising the powers vested upon them by the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, that the transmission or retransmission of the channel was to be banned for 3 complete days due to the violation of at least three rules of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.
Why does the broadcasting world new rules?
New rules and compliance requirements are coming up every day due to the massive shift in the viewing habits of the video consumers. There was a time when single terrestrial TV was our only source of information. During that time, content localization and optimization for a regional audience was not even a remote concept. However, right now we have multi system operators (MSOs), local cable operators (LCOs), direct-to-home (DTH), IPTV and HITS service providers in every corner of the country.
The heterogeneity of the platforms has given rise to several new policy guidelines and regulatory bodies.
- In 2001, India saw its first set of guidelines for getting the license of DTH broadcasting services in the country.
- This was followed by HITS technology that prompted the central government to issue another set of guidelines in 2009 regarding the grant of permission for establishing and operating the HITS.
- The MIB issued the IPTV guidelines on 2008 for the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs). They have the license to offer triple play services. It also covers the cable TV operators, who have registered under the Cable TV act.
With the rise of subscription based cloud streaming services, these laws and regulations are becoming ambiguous in certain aspects. As of 2014, The PS channels were not overseen by MIB and they did not follow any of the TRAI regulatory guidelines. They are faced the controversy of categorization. There was a persistent debate as to whether the PS channels should qualify as Value Added Services (VAS) or they should be considered broadcast channels in the traditional sense. Soon, it was decided that the PS channel programs would fall under the purview of the central governing authority.
With the rise of cloud based streaming platforms, there is every reason for a major broadcaster to panic. If you are working with a cloud service provider, you need to ensure that your content meets every guideline and rule updated by TRAI and MIB as of 2018. If you are not yet working with cloud IaaS providers, you need to think about it since it is the only way you can provide content localization to a regional audience. Having the video content on the cloud helps with the management of content, proper organization and compliance requirements.
How does TRAI decide the viewer’s experience?
At the same time, the TRAI is also responsible for the viewer’s experience. TRAI also reserves the right to intervene if the broadcasters exceed their permitted time limit for advertisement broadcast. According to the updated Standards of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) Regulations, 2012, no broadcaster is allowed to telecast advertisements longer than 12 minutes per hour during their regular programme broadcast. The new rule also requires the broadcasters to submit the details of advertisements telecasted in its channel.
How does updating the compliance and regulations help the consumer?
Right now, it does not depend if you are operating at a regional, national or international level. Complying with the new rules and guidelines is becoming tougher by the day due to the new updates coming from TRAI. In September 2018, almost all major broadcasters published their RIO (Reference Interconnect Offer) in compliance with TRAI’s new tariff rate. This comes after the implementation of the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations 2017, on July 2018. According to TRAI, the new regulatory framework will rein in more transparency in the operations of the broadcasters in the country and it will bring the cable TV rentals to an affordable minimum for the consumers.
By Dinesh Mittal
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