On 9th November 2022, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (“MIB”) issued the “Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Television Channels in India, 2022” (“Guidelines”). The Guidelines stated that private broadcasters may undertake public service broadcasting for 30 minutes every day. Accordingly, on 30th January 2023 the MIB has issued an “Advisory” outlining the manner in which private broadcasters may undertake the public service broadcasting through voluntary compliance and self-certification. The advisory further states that private satellite TV Channels are advised to report public service broadcasting in the manner prescribed with effect from 1st March 2023.
Themes: The themes for public service broadcasting include the following, namely
- education and spread of literacy;
- agriculture and rural development;
- health and family welfare;
- science and technology;
- welfare of women;
- welfare of the weaker sections of the society;
- protection of environment and of cultural heritage; and
- national integration
These themes are indicative and may be expanded to include similar subjects of national importance and social relevance such as water conservation, disaster management, etc.
Content: Broadcasters have the liberty to modulate their content. The relevant content embedded in the programmes may be accounted for public service broadcasting as long as it carried out in a manner that the overall objective of the public service broadcasting is achieved. The content can be shared between the Broadcasters and could be repeat telecast on one several TV channels and a common e-Platform can be developed as a repository of relevant videos or textual content from various sources for the purpose of public service broadcasting, which may be accessed and used by TV Channels.
Timing: The content need not be of 30 minutes at a stretch and could be over smaller time slots. On a monthly basis, the content must be broadcast for a total of 15 hours. Any transmission of the content from 12:00 AM to 6:00 AM shall not be considered under public service broadcasting.
Compliance: Broadcasters shall submit a monthly report on the Broadcast Seva Portal and include a compliance certificate in its Annual report. The reporting compliance as per the advisory would be following the principles of voluntary compliance and self-certification.
Exemptions: Foreign channels, downlinking in India (in languages other than those specified under the 8th schedule of the Constitution) are exempt from the obligation public service broadcasting. Further, channels broadcasting more than 12 hours of content relating to sports and devotional spiritual yoga content are exempt from furnishing monthly reports.
Reporting: The Broadcaster shall keep the record of the content telecast for a period of 90 days.
The Guidelines state that the airwaves/frequencies are public property and need be used in the “best interest of the society”. However, the Guidelines do not consider that the broadcast of content on themes of national importance and social relevance by private broadcasters would negatively impact their commercial interests as they will have to incur hefty costs for producing and airing such content. The Guidelines do not make any provision for subsidising the cost of producing and airing content on themes of national importance and social relevance for private broadcasters. Furthermore, the Guidelines ought to have exempted private news channels from undertaking public service broadcasting and the associated compliances as they already broadcast and produce content in line with the themes of national interest and social relevance. Although the Guidelines rely on voluntary compliance and self-certification for implementation of public service broadcasting of content on themes of national importance and social relevance, the MIB retains the power to “issue general advisory to the channels for telecast of content in national interest” which will have to be mandatorily complied with.
Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Satellite Television Channels in India, 2022 – https://mib.gov.in/sites/default/files/Guidelines%20for%20Uplinking%20and%20Downhinking%20of%20Satellite%20Television%20Channels%20in%20India%2C%202022.pdf
Press Release on the Advisory on Obligation of Public Service Broadcasting, 2023 – https://pib.gov.in/PressReleaseIframePage.aspx?PRID=1894747
Advisory on Obligation of Public Service Broadcasting, 2023 – https://mib.gov.in/sites/default/files/Advisory%20on%20Obligation%20of%20PSB_1.pdf