The Delhi High Court has issued orders in response to a case filed by major film production houses against television channels Republic TV and Times Now. The production houses (including Dharma Productions, Red Chillies Entertainment, Yash Raj Films, etc.) claim that the reporting by these television channels is irresponsible and defamatory. The Court has now directed the television channels to follow the Programme Code under the cable television law.
How does Indian law regulate cable television?
Indian law regulates the operation of cable television networks through the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and its 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 they believe it is necessary in public interest.
- The transmission of programmes which do not comply with the specified Programme Code and Advertisement Code.
- Television programmes that might promote disharmony or hatred between different religious groups, linguistic groups, castes etc., or programmes which might disturb public peace.
Why is the Programme Code important?
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 contain defamatory material which harms someone’s reputation or half-truths, or false and suggestive insinuations. Television programmes should also not criticise, defame or deliberately abuse any individual or groups.
In India, a cable service cannot carry television programmes which are against 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 Rupees one thousand. For every subsequent offence, the punishment is imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine of up to Rupees five thousand.