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India's Leading Source for Broadcasting & Broadband Information - CableQuest Magazine
HomeArticlesBroadcast BillBroadcasting Authority of India
Sunday, 13 July 1997 00:00

Broadcasting Authority of India

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In response to the Supreme directive in the Union of into versus the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) case in February 1995 in which airwaves were declared public property and were to be regulated by an independent authority with statutory status; which ultimately prevents monopolies and protects viewers to access a range of services programmes and views, enough emphasis has been given to codify the BAI in the Broadcast To pioneer the cause of listener and viewers against the authority of the broadcasters-be of public or private; the BAI is being constituted.

As per the seventh schedule of constitution broadcasting is a central subject. Hence it is obligatory the centre to formulate its aces and investigate its pries. Cable Television Network illation) ordinance, 1994 and the Prasar Bharti Act are the subjects governed by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting until now. These provisions serve very little impetus to the vast horizon of pursuits. The management of Radio Frequency Spectrum is dealt by Wireless and Planning Coordination of the Ministry of Communication. The sanctions of these authorities is too little to cast even a shadow of their own.

The chapter II of the draft of the Broadcast Bill,1997 deals with its physiology (i.e. structure and constitution) while chapter III of the draft deals with its anatomy (function and concerned modalities)

Character of BAI

BAI will be a corporate body having spontaneous succession and a common seal with power to acquire, hold and dispose of property both movable and immovable, and to contract and shall by the said name sue and be sued.

Structure: The authority shall consist of the following members, namely: - 

(a) A chairperson:

(b) Not more than eleven Part time Members to be appointed by the central government in consultation with the chairperson.

Secretary to the Government of India in charge of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ex- Officio.

Secretary to the government of India in-charge of Department of telecommunications, ex- officio.

Secretary-General ,ex-officio.

“..... Why are secretaries joining the

BAI ?......Where is the independence

from Government.

N.Vittal

Retd. Secretary, DOT, Chairman, Public Enterprise Selection Board (PESB)

The chairperson, the whole time members and the part time members shall be appointed by the President of India on the recommendation of a Selection Committee. This Selection Committee shall be consisting of the Chairman of the council of states, who shall be the chairman of committee, the Minister in charge of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India and the Chairman, Press Council of India.

There is apprehension of the authority yielding to Airport Authority of India way; with such non-too transparent structure. Also there are opinion expressing serious doubts over the genuineness of BAI’s claim of independence and authority as per the Supreme Court directive.

The doubts do not lack evidences to substantiate their opinion. How genuinely the authority can approve of independence and autonomy as envisaged in its motto with three secretaries of the government in the ruling body. For the sake of control could not the presence of director general of DD and AIR be more than enough?

Eminence in the field of administration, law, business management, broadcasting programme, broadcasting engineering, information management, journalism and communication has been characterized as the criteria of eligibility for members and chairman. But how good the members of the Selection Committee themselves are to judge their eminence? Had not it been perfect to give judgement job to the same block of eminent persons?

If we look at the contemporary authorities outside India within the same jurisdiction, we come across FCC (Federal Communication Commission) of USA and BBC (British Broadcasting corporation). These two are quite successful in their objective and hold a name for their action. The FCC has one chairman and 4 commissioners. The Chairman and the Commissioners are appointed by the President of USA subject to its confirmation by the Senate. There is a Managing Director at par with Chief Executive Officer (CEO). He is appointed by the Chairman. The FCC reports to the Congress and not to the President. So, although it is a direct appointee of President, it is not a nodding body to his taste.

Similarly in the United Kingdom, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has a board of governors appointed by the Queen. The Governors, in turn appoint the: Director General who is the Chie Executive Officer (CEO). The regulatory body consists of a Char person of Board of Governors, Vice Chairperson, three National Governors and a Director General This body reports to the Queen

Since BBC is not advertising-led like DD, its example does not sun the BAI’s interests. So taking clue from the FCC’s success India can govern its own vast media market place.

Another point of contention in the Broadcast Bill draft pertains to its part time members. The existence of the so-called part time members guiding the area of broadcasting seems to put off the desired attention.

Then there is the controversy over collective responsibility of all members of the BAI. When expertise is the urge of the hour, had not it been proper to have separate teams of specialists with demarcated area of function on the, lines of FCC?

The issue now is: can we sustain with blindfold comparison with FCC? Of course not, but, the >s of reference are limited to controversial issues only.

Can we ignore the possibility of BAI getting in a fix with developments concerning foreign channels. The draft bill recognises BAI as the sole regulatory and monitoring authority and hopes, BAI will carry out all functions like giving licenses. All channels beaming into the country are under its jurisdiction.

Broadcasting Authority of India : Expectations

1. Protecting consumer Interest

2. Fair and effective competition of market forces

3. Ensure programming adherence to codes

4. To protect the cultural heritage and the tradition of this country

Mr. K.S.Sarma

Director General, Doordarshan

It is beyond the perception of image, why the draft bill seems liberal towards certain foreign channels. In this regard, draft defines, BAI shall permit the reception of an unlicensed foreign channel on request provided the channel is free to air, does not carry advertisements or carries advertisement but has news and current affairs as primary concern, and meets the general broadcasting and programme standards set by BAI.

This lack of clarity can put the whipping boy of Indian broadcasting to a difficult situation. For instance, if some foreign channels flout its norms and start uplinking from abroad where will BAI look for? 

 

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