MIB looks to block state govts from entering cable distribution by amending CTN Act

MUMBAI: The ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) is bringing in a slew of amendments to the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995. The ministry has issued Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 seeking feedback from general public/stakeholders.

The deadline for submitting comments is 17th February. The comments can be sent through e-mail at sodas-moiab@gov.in.

The biggest amendment brought by the ministry is to prevent state governments or their entities as well as religious and political parties from entering the TV distribution space. It is pertinent to note that the MIB has granted provision DAS licence to Tamil Nadu government-owned Arasu Cable TV Corporation.

In the clause for registration as a cable operator, a negative list has been inserted. The negative list includes state governments and its entities, urban and local bodies, political and religious bodies will neither be granted registration nor will their registration be renewed.

The clause 4(1) now reads as follows: “Registration as cable operator–(1) Any person who is desirous of operating or is operating a cable television network may apply for registration or renewal of registration, as a cable operator to the registering authority”.

“Provided that such a registration or renewal of registration shall not be granted to the State Governments, urban and local bodies, political and religious bodies, State Government Departments, State Government-owned companies, State Government undertakings, Joint ventures of the State Government and the private sector and State Government funded entities.

In 2012, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had issued recommendations to prevent the entry of state governments, political and religious bodies into the business of broadcasting and/or distribution of TV channels.

In clause 2(a) of the amended Bill, the ministry has added Additional District Magistrate to the list of authorised officers besides District Magistrate, Sub-divisional Magistrate, and Commissioner of Police. Clause 2(ai) is being amended to broaden the scope of the ‘Authority’ by adding “any such authority prescribed by the central government” in addition to the TRAI.

In Clause 2(aiii), the ministry has included local cable operator (LCO) and multi-system operator (MSO) in ‘Definitions’ under ‘Cable Operator’. The definition is as follows: “Cable operator means any person LCO or MSO as the case may be, who provides cable service through a cable television network or otherwise controls or is responsible for the management and operation of a cable television network and fulfils the prescribed eligibility criteria and conditions.”

The draft bill has also seen insertion of a new subsection as 2(c)(i)-(iii) below Section 2 (c) – which is about Cable Television Network — to include definitions of Ground-Based channel, Platform Services, and satellite TV channel.

The definition of the ‘Company’ has been revised as per the new Company Act. Under the new Act, the company means a company as defined in section 2(20) of the Companies Act, 2013 (18 of 2013). A new sub-section to clause 2(d) to include the definitions of DPO, DTH, HITS, IPTV, LCO and MSO.

The notification below Section 2 which specifies Head Post Master as the registering authority for LCO has been deleted.

Section 4(3) has been deleted in view of the completion of digitalisation. Section 4A has been amended to “It is obligatory for every cable operator to transmit or re-transmit programmes of any channel in an encrypted form through a digital addressable system only”.

The definition of the addressable system has also been revised.

In section 4B, the ministry has included ‘broadband internet access’ in right of way. The amended clause is as follows, “Right of way for cable operators and permission by public authority:-(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, any cable operator entitled for providing cable services / broadband internet access may, from time to time, lay and establish cables and erect posts under, over, along, across, in or upon any immovable property vested in or under the control or management of a public authority.”

The Programme Code has been amended to include Broadcaster/DPO. The revised clause is as follows “Programme code: No person Broadcaster or DPO shall transmit or re-transmit or cause to transmit through a cable service any programme unless such programme is in conformity with the prescribed programme code.”

Clause 7 has been amended to shift data maintenance from manual to electronic form. Every cable Operator shall keep the data on programmes transmitted or re-transmitted through their Cable Network in form of Electronic Programming Guide (EPG) and electronically generated Log for a period of one year and also share the same with the Authorised Officer and the Central Government as and when required.

The ministry has also increased the monetary penalty amount and insertion of a new subsection regarding penalties for violation of the Programme Code and the Advertisement Code.

For the first offence, the ministry has proposed imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to Rs 10,000 or with both. For every subsequent offence, imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to Rs 50,000.

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