Indian Parliament to Mull 'Draconian' Broadcasting Bill

12 January 2007

NEW DELHI: Despite widespread media hostility the controversial Broadcast Services Regulation Bill will be tabled in the Indian Parliament's upcoming budget session. Its provisions have been described as "draconian".

Insists an unrepentant P R Dasmunsi, minister for Information, Broadcasting and Parliamentary Affairs: "We will table the Bill toward the end of the session . . . not many changes will be made."

The draft bill was not to the liking of India's media and entertainment industry when aired to stakeholders last year. They remain alarmed by the radical powers it confers on government in certain circumstances to take control of and manage private broadcasting channels.

Nor were they reassured by the bill's empowerment of "authorised officers" to "inspect, search and seize equipment" in case of any violation by media of the new law.

To outsiders - and many within India - the wording of the draft bill is more reminiscent of a 1940s fascist diktat than a modern democratic government. Which explains the storm of protest and the government's apparent climb-down.

In a recent consultation paper, the government invited comments and suggestions on the proposed bill, stating: "The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.. . . proposes to consult the media and broadcasting industry organisations to obtain their response to some of the major issues proposed to be covered in the . . . bill."

A government spokesman, also in amelioration mode, insisted that the proposals in the draft bill merely indicated "the current thinking" within the ministry and were "not the final views" either of the ministry or central government.

Data sourced from The Times of India; additional content by WARC staff