The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry has proposed to scrap jail terms for breach of Cable TV Networks Regulation Act. The suggestion comes within the framework of a recently announced move to decriminalise minor offences in bylaws across ministries.
The Cable TV Act is a broad directive that largely regulates all aspects of broadcasting and distributing television channels in India with multiple codes. The act comprises a programming and advertising code.
Currently, anyone in violation of the act could face a jail sentence of up to two years for the first offence and up to five years for repeat offenders.
As per the new proposal mooted by the I&B ministry, the penalty for violations under the act would be restricted to a classified set of penalties, The Economic Times reported.
These include issuing warnings, advisory, forbidding transmission of offensive programmes, giving the channel a chance to explain, running apology scrolls, and subsequently imposing a ban of up to 30 days on the channel's broadcasting or annulment of its licence basis the offence.
But first and foremost, the earlier provision of prison terms for the key decision-makers in the companies will be entirely rubbed out.
An I&B Ministry official told the news daily that the proposal is part of an "attempt to reform governance in India to make laws more business-friendly, and also aimed at increasing freedom in creating and transmitting content."
The Cable TV Act governs not just cable and DTH operators, but television content as well. It can impose penalties on TV channels for unauthorised content broadcast, non-compliance with TRAI norms, illegal circulation, plagiarism, wrong or under-declaration of subscriber numbers.
Following Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's announcement of decriminalisation of violations under the Companies Act in this year's budget, a GoM that met stakeholders had also suggested that all ministries scrap sentences for minor offences, or reduce penal provisions in all statutes, particularly in areas that affect businesses.
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