On 17th June, 2021, the Central Government has issued a notification (Read notification here) amending the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 to provide a statutory mechanism for the redressal of complaints relating to content broadcasted by the television channels. These rules have been termed as “The Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021” (“CTNR Rules, 2021). The CTNR Rules, 2021 are at par with the self-regulation mechanism introduced for publishers of online curated content and news and current affairs content under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (Read our posts here and here on the IT Rules, 2021)
The CTNR Rules, 2021 introduce the following rules in relation to self-regulation mechanism for broadcasters:
- Rule 15. Complaint redressal structure
- Rule 16. Filing and processing of grievance or complaint
- Rule 17. Self-Regulation by broadcasters
- Rule 18. Self-regulation by the self-regulating body of broadcasters.
- Rule 19. Oversight Mechanism
- Rule 20. Inter-Departmental Committee.
- Rule 21. Disclosure of Information
Additionally, Rule 6 of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 which deals with the Programme Code, the following Sub-Rule (6) has been introduced:
“where the Central Government is satisfied that the programme of any channel is not in conformity with the Programme Code, it may, after giving an opportunity of hearing to the cable operator, and by an order in writing, prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of any such channel or programme in accordance with the provisions of section 20 of the Act.”
Further, Rule 7 of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 which deals with the Advertisement Code, the following Sub-Rule (12) has been introduced.
“where the Central Government is satisfied that the advertisement of any channel is not in conformity with the Advertising Code, it may, after giving an opportunity of hearing to the cable operator, and by an order in writing, prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of any such channel or programme in accordance with the provisions of section 20 of the Act”
Rule 15: Complaint Redressal Structure
Complaint Redressal Structure has been introduced to ensure observance and adherence to the Programme Code and the Advertising Code by the broadcaster and to address the grievance or complaint, if any, relating thereto, there shall be a three-level structure as under:
- Level I – A self-regulation by broadcasters;
- Level II – Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the broadcasters; and
- Level III – Oversight mechanism by the Central Government.
Similarly, Indian Broadcast Foundation (“IBF”) and the DCCC (Digital Content Complaints Committee) with BCCC (Broadcasting Content Complaints Council) already have their self-regulating guidelines in place. (Read our post here ). The above amendments put the rules guiding broadcasters at par with the IT Rules governing digital and OTT streaming platforms which also have to have a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism.
Filing And Processing Of Grievance Or Complaint
- For Advertisements:
Any person aggrieved by the content of a programme of a channel as being not in conformity with the Programme Code or the Advertising Code may file his complaint in writing to the Broadcaster.
Provided that where such complaint relates to Advertising Code laid down by the Advertising Standards Council of India, such complaint may be addressed to the said ASCI’s Consumer Complaints Council body and that Council shall deal with such complaint in accordance with the procedure laid down by it.
- For Programmes:
Any person aggrieved by the content of a programme of a channel as being not in conformity with the Programme Code or the Advertising Code may file his complaint in writing to the broadcaster.
Every complaint shall be dealt with in the following manner, namely: –
- Acknowledgement of complaint: The broadcaster shall, within 24 hours of complaint being filed, generate and issue an acknowledgement to the complainant for his information and record.
- Response to complaint: The broadcaster shall dispose of the complaint and inform the complainant of its decision within 15 days of receipt of such complaint;
- Appeal to Self-Regulating Body: if the decision of the broadcaster is not communicated to the complainant within the stipulated period of 15 days, or if the complainant is not satisfied with the decision of the broadcaster, he may prefer an appeal to the self-regulating body of which such broadcaster is a member, within 15 days therefrom;
- Disposition By Self-Regulating Body: The self-regulating body shall dispose of the appeal within 60 days of receipt of appeal and convey its decision in the form of a guidance or advisory to the broadcaster, and inform the complainant of such decision within a period of 15 days;
- Final appeal to Central Government oversight mechanism: When, the complainant is not satisfied with the decision of the self-regulating body, he may, within 15 days of such decision, prefer an appeal to the Central Government for its consideration under the Oversight Mechanism referred to in rule 19.
Self-Regulation By Broadcasters – A broadcaster shall –
- Establish a grievance or complaint redressal mechanism
- Appoint an officer to deal with the complaints received by it;
- Display the contact details related to its grievance redressal mechanism
- Display the name and contact details of its Grievance Officer at an appropriate place on its website or interface, as the case may be;
- Ensure that such Officer takes a decision on every grievance or complaint received by it within 15 days
- Ensure to communicate the decision to the complainant within the stipulated time;
- Be a member of a self-regulating body and abide by its terms and conditions.
The broadcaster shall comply with every advisory, guidance, order or direction issued under this rule by the self-regulating body or by the Central Government, as the case may be
Self-Regulation By The Self-Regulating Body Of Broadcasters
- Formation of self-regulation mechanism: There may be one or more self-regulatory body of broadcasters, being an independent body constituted by the broadcasters or its association.
- Establish a grievance redressal mechanism: Every such self-regulating body shall be constituted by a minimum of 40 broadcasters.
- Appoint a Grievance Officer Every self-regulating body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court or an independent eminent person from the field of media, broadcasting, entertainment, child rights, human rights or such other relevant fields, and shall have other members, preferably not exceeding six, being independent experts in the field of media, broadcasting, entertainment, child rights, human rights and such other relevant fields.
- Register: The self-regulating body shall, after its constitution register itself with the Central Government within a period of 30 days from the date of publication of these rules, or within 30 days from the date of its constitution, whichever is earlier.
Functions Of Self-Regulating Body:
The self-regulating body shall perform the following functions: —
- Oversee and ensure the alignment adherence by the broadcaster to the Programme Code and the Advertising Code;
- Provide guidance to the broadcaster on various aspects of the Programme Code and the Advertising Code;
- Address grievances which have not been resolved by broadcaster within 15 days;
- Hear appeals filed by the complainant against the decision of the broadcaster;
- Issue such guidance or advisories to a broadcaster for ensuring compliance to the Programme Code and the Advertising Code.
Manner Of Disposing Complaint:
A self-regulating body while disposing complaint or an appeal may issue the following guidance or advisories to the broadcaster, namely: –
- advisory, warning, censure, admonish or reprimand; or
- an apology to be telecast by the broadcaster; or
- include a warning card or a disclaimer; or
- in case of any content where it is satisfied that there is a need for taking action to delete or modify content, refer it to the Central Government for the consideration of the oversight mechanism referred to in rule 19 for appropriate action.
Where the self-regulating body is of the opinion that there is no violation of the Programme Code or the Advertising Code, it shall convey such decision to the complainant and the broadcaster.
Where the broadcaster fails to comply with the guidance or advisory of the self-regulating body within the time specified in such guidance or advisory, the self-regulating body shall refer the matter to the Oversight Mechanism referred to in rule 19 within 15 days of expiry of the stipulated period.
Oversight Mechanism: The Central Government shall coordinate and facilitate the adherence to the Programme Code and the Advertising Code by the broadcaster, develop an Oversight Mechanism, and perform the following functions, namely: –
- publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices for such bodies;
- establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances or complaints;
- refer to the Inter-Departmental Committee grievances or complaints arising out of the decision of the self-regulating body under rule 17, or if no decision has been taken by the self-regulating body within the stipulated time, or on receipt of such other complaints or references relating to violation of Programme Code or Code Advertising as it may consider necessary
- issue appropriate guidance and advisories to broadcasters;
- issue appropriate orders and directions to broadcasters for maintenance and adherence to the Programme Code and the Advertising Code;
- take action for non-compliance of its orders or directions and that of the self-regulating body.
Disclosure of Information: A self-regulating body and a broadcaster shall make true and full disclosure of :-
- All grievances or complaints received by it
- the manner in which the grievances are disposed of
- the action taken on the grievance
- the reply sent to the complainant
- the order or directions received by it under the rules
- the action taken on such orders or directions
- Such information shall be displayed in public domain, and updated quarterly
- Preserve records of content telecasted by it for minimum of 90 days and make it available to the self-regulating body or the Central Government, or any other Government agency, as may be requestioned.
The above amendment leads to a strong institutional system for redressing grievances while placing accountability and responsibility on the broadcasters and their self-regulating bodies.