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Include broadcasters, viewers in TV monitoring panel: rights body - Sathish - 09-24-2009

Pune The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry’s recent directive to form district monitoring committees to ensure that the content of private television channels fall within the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act excludes the two main stakeholders –the broadcasters and viewers of private television channels. Pointing out this lapse, city-based consumer rights’ organisation Grahak Hitvardhini has written to I&B minister Ambika Soni to include broadcasters and viewers in this committee.

The circular issued by the government states that it should be a seven-member committee to be formed by the police commissioner or district magistrate. The committee should consist of a deputy commissioner of police, district information officer, principal of an all-women’s college, one representative each of voluntary organisations working for child welfare and women’s issues, a psychologist and an educationist. “However, there is no representation of either the broadcasters or the viewers who are the two main stakeholders in this issue,” said advocate D G Sant, secretary of Grahak Hitvardhini.

Pune police commissioner Satyapal Singh has taken the lead in forming the Pune district monitoring committee as per the government directive and the process of forming it is still on. “Other than the broadcasters and viewers, we have also suggested that consumer organisations working in the broadcasting sector should also be included in the committee. The district committees should meet every month and the state committee should meet once in every three months,” Sant said.

The letter states that these committee members should not only have legal perspective of the broadcasting sector but also be conversant with the technologies and actual working of the networks to understand and resolve any complaint against the operators and distributors.

According to the government directive, the district level committee will be a forum where the public may lodge a complaint regarding content aired over cable television and take action on the same.

The implementation of Cable Television Networks (regulation) Act was not satisfactory either due to lack of clear understanding of the role of the district monitoring committees or a suitable mechanism to enforce the provisions of the act. This was the main reason behind the formation of these committees, the government directive states.