Mar 11, 2022

5 things you didn’t know about cable television and the law

The Supreme Court has passed an order to stop Sudarshan News from telecasting the remaining episodes of its programme ‘Bindas Bol’. The Court felt that the ‘Bindas Bol’ programme aims to defame the Muslim community and indicates that Muslims are involved in a conspiracy to enter the civil services.

How does Indian law regulate cable television?

The operation of cable television networks in India is regulated by the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the associated rules.

Can television programmes be banned?

Yes, any authorised officer can pass an order to prohibit a cable operator from transmitting a television programme or channel. The officer can prohibit the transmission if he believes that such a step is necessary in public interest. He can prohibit the transmission of programmes which do not comply with the specified Programme Code and Advertisement Code.

An authorised officer can also prohibit any television programme that is likely to promote disharmony or hatred between different religious groups, linguistic groups, castes etc., or programmes which are likely to disturb public peace.

What is the importance of the Programme Code?

Every cable service has to follow the Programme Code given in the Cable Television Networks Rules. The Code regulates the content of television programmes.

According to the Programme Code, television programmes should not attack religions or communities. Programmes should not contain visuals or words which insult religious groups. Further, television programmes should not be defamatory. Programmes on television should not contain half-truths, or false and suggestive insinuations.

A cable service cannot carry television programmes which do not obey the Programme Code.

Punishments under the Act

Any person such as a broadcaster, cable operator etc. who violates the legal provisions of the Act can be punished. For the first offence, the punishment is imprisonment for up to two years and/or a fine of up to one thousand rupees. For every subsequent offence, the punishment is imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine of up to five thousand rupees.

The Supreme Court order

The Court held that the content of the ‘Bindas Bol’ episodes brings the Muslim community into public hatred and disgrace. In its order, the Court stated that a democratic society committed to the rule of law is founded on the co-existence of communities. Any attempt to defame a religious community will be viewed with disapproval by the Court, which has a duty to enforce constitutional values.

Thus, the Court found it necessary to prevent any further telecast of the ‘Bindas Bol’ episode

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