NBDSA not a statutory self-regulating body: Centre in SC

IANS Photo

IANS Photo

New Delhi, September 20 (IANS): In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has said that News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) is not a statutory self-regulating body under the Cable Television Networks (CTN) Rules or any other law, but an independent body created by the association of the broadcasters.

It said that NBDSA does not have any statutory or legal status and takes action only in respect of the internal guidelines or ethics framed by the association and not in respect of the Programme Code laid down under the CTN Act.

The Centre told the top court that the News Broadcasters Association (NBA, now renamed as NBDA- News Broadcasters & Digital Association) is not the sole association having all broadcasters as its members and is a “trading organisation” having only 71 members out of the 394 news broadcasting channels.

The affidavit said that NBDA is not registered with the Central government under Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021 and “has always asserted that it is not obliged to follow the rules relating to complaints redressal structure and further that its members are not obliged to comply with the CTN (Amendment) Rules, 2021.”

It added that NBDA is trying to create monopolistic rights in the arena of "complaints redressal mechanism of news broadcasters," which would operate without any statutory or governmental control.

“It is submitted that conduct of the NBDA manifests that it is trying to project and establish itself as the sole private tribunal of complaints redressal of aggrieved viewers of news broadcasters, which would be self governed and free from any statutory accountability and action,” read the reply document filed by the Centre.

In relation to the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF), the Centre said that NBF is formally registered with the Central Government under the CTN (Amendment) Rules, 2021 and has been following the statutory regime of the Central Government.

It said that an opportunity was given to self-regulating bodies to get registered with the Ministry of I&B under CTN rules and “the NBDA having not applied for registration… (is) not a legal or statutory body under the CTN Act and hence not part of the regulatory mechanism laid down under the law.”

Notably, the CTN (Amendment) Rules, 2021 provides a statutory framework for grievance redressal and gives a legal space to the self-regulating bodies to give appropriate advice to the broadcasters for taking rectificatory action in case of violation of the Programme or Advertising Code.

The Central government said that there is no statutory vacuum for grievance redressal mechanism or for regulation of the broadcast of irresponsible reporting.

“It is respectfully submitted that there is sufficient regulatory framework in place for regulating electronic media which primarily consists of "statutory regulation" and "self regulation". It is stated that the statutory regulatory framework is contained, inter-alia, in the CTN Act and the Rules framed there under read with the Up- linking and Down-linking guidelines for the TV channels,” it said.

The reply was filed by the Centre before the Supreme Court in response to News Broadcasters Association plea against an order passed by the Bombay High Court in a PIL saying that the self-regulation regime adopted by the News Channels lack statutory sanctity.

On September 18, the top court had stressed that the self-regulatory mechanism of monitoring TV news channels should be “sufficiently strengthened” and asked the News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA) to come up with the fresh guidelines within a period of four weeks.