India: Framework For Content On Television


The content on television ("TV") is presently regulated by a number of regulations and self-regulatory mechanism. From the regulatory perspective, the content on TV is broadly divided into news and current affairs, non-news and current affairs (entertainment) and advertisements. The content on TV is governed through statutory regulation as well as self-regulation for certain aspects.

In this article we have discussed some of the relevant provisions of the legal and regulatory framework currently in force in India with respect to content regulation on TV, covering programmes on non-news and current affairs TV channels, news and current affairs TV channels, advertisements, doordarshan and films on television.


The content on non-news and current affairs channels is governed by a statute and committees formed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting ("MIB"). Further, certain self-regulations have also been framed by industry bodies.

The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the rules thereunder:

The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 ("Cable Act") defines 'programme' to include advertisements as well and thus advertisements would also be governed by the Cable Act.

The Cable Act mandates that all programmes telecast on TV channels and transmitted or retransmitted through the cable TV network, must adhere to the Programme Code and Advertising Code (collectively "Codes"). These Codes have been prescribed under the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 ("Cable Rules") and provide for a list of parameters to regulate programmes and advertisements on Television.

Programme Code

The Programme Code prohibits the carriage of programmes which amounts to criticism of friendly countries, attack on religions or communities, obscenity, defamation, contempt of court, affects integrity of the nation, encourages superstitions and denigrates women or children. Further, any content generally not suitable for unrestricted public exhibition and contravening the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 is also prohibited.

Advertising Code

The Advertising Code specifically prohibits carriage of advertisements which offend morality, decency or religious sentiments of the public; or ridicule any race, caste, colour, incite the public to commit crime, denigrates women. Further, it requires advertisements to conform to other applicable central and state legislations.

Inter-Ministerial Committee

The MIB has constituted an Inter-Ministerial Committee ("IMC") to look into the violations of the Codes. The IMC may initiate action either suo moto or whenever a violation is brought to the notice of the MIB.

Electronic Media Monitoring Centre

The MIB established the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre ("EMMC") for effective monitoring of content of various TV channels for violation of the provisions of the Codes, Cable Act, Cable Rules or any other laws of India. The EMMC monitors channels and reports violations to a committee of the MIB for scrutiny, which then examines the purported violations and forwards its findings to the IMC for further action.

State-level and District-level Monitoring Committees

State-level Monitoring Committees ("State Committees") and District-level Monitoring Committees ("District Committees") have been constituted by the MIB to enforce the Cable Act. The MIB has clarified that in case of a complaint concerning content carried locally, the District Committee itself may decide whether the same constitutes a violation or not. Whereas, in case the complaint pertains to national or regional satellite channels, the District Committee may forward its recommendations to the IMC, through the State Committee.

Self-Regulatory Bodies for Regulation of Programmes - Indian Broadcasting Foundation

Indian Broadcasting Foundation ("IBF") adopted the Self-Regulation Guidelines for General Entertainment and Non-News and Current Affairs TV channels ("Self-Regulation Guidelines") and the Content Code and Certification Rules 2011 ("Content Code") for the broadcasting sector. The guidelines are applicable to all non-news broadcast programmes on TV, regardless of the media of transmission, which could be cable, terrestrial, satellite, Direct to Home (DTH), Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), Mobile or Headend in the Sky (HITS) operators. The guidelines, however do not cover films or any other production, which requires a certificate under the Cinematograph Act, 1952.

The Self-Regulation Guidelines and Content Code set out principles, guidelines and ethical practices to guide the service providers to conform to the Programme Code. The Self-Regulation Guidelines provide that care and sensitivity should be observed to avoid offending the audience and reasonable steps are to protect minors.

The Self-Regulation Guidelines provide for setting up a 'Standards and Practices Department' at the individual TV channel level to deal with the complaints received for content aired on its channels. Further, the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council ("BCCC") has been established at the industry level. A complaint may be filed against any programme broadcast on any TV channel within 14 days from the first broadcast. The BCCC may also initiate suo moto proceedings against any programme broadcast on a non-news and current affairs TV channel.


The content on news and current affairs channels is not governed by any specific statute and is rather self-regulated by code of conduct and regulations framed by an industry body.

News Broadcasters Association

The News Broadcasters Association ("NBA") is a self-regulatory association representing the 'news and current affairs' broadcasters. The NBA has formulated the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards ("NBA Code"). The NBA Code provides for the principles to be adhered to by the news channels. It emphasizes that the news channels operate as trustees of public and must recognize the special responsibility in their operations. Further, the NBA Code lays down that the broadcasters shall ensure that they do not select news for the purpose of either promoting or hampering either side of any controversial public issue.

News Broadcasting Standards Regulations

The NBA also laid down the News Broadcasting Standards Regulations ("NBSR"), under which it constituted the News Broadcasting Standards Authority ("NBSA") as the disputes adjudication body and to enforce the NBA Code. The NBSA functions to ensure the compliance of the NBA Code by broadcasters, television journalists and news agencies. The NBSA is required to improve the standards of broadcast and the independence of broadcasters. However, the jurisdiction of the NBSA is restricted only to members of NBA.


The advertisement content is not governed by any specific statute and is self-regulated by the code of conduct framed by an industry body as well as other applicable central and state legislations.

Advertising Standards Council of India 

In the absence of a statutory framework, advertisements are regulated by a self-regulatory organization, Advertising Standards Council of India ("ASCI") which has prescribed a code for self-regulation ("ASCI Code"). The ASCI functions to ensure the truthfulness of representations and claims by advertisements and ensures that advertisements are not offensive to generally accepted standards of public decency. It is necessary for the advertisers to ensure that advertisements conform to the ASCI Code.

The ASCI also safeguards against indiscriminate use of advertising for promotion of products, hazardous to society or individuals or those which are unacceptable to the society at large.

Laws impacting advertisements

Besides the ASCI Code, Cable Act and Cable Rules, certain provisions regulate the form or content of an advertisement. Legislations such as Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940; Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954; Emblems and Names Act, 1950; Patents Act, 1970; Trademarks Act, 1999 and Copyright Act, 1957 etc. contain provisions having an impact on advertisements relating to the subject matter of these legislations. The ASCI Code and machinery is intended to complement legal controls and not to usurp such other provisions of law.

Limits on duration of advertisements

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ("TRAI") has issued the Standards of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) Regulations, 2012, which caps the time for advertisements. An ad-cap has been placed on broadcasters limiting advertisements to 12 minute per hour. However, these regulations have been challenged and the matter is presently sub juidice.


Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990

The Prasar Bharati, a Government of India undertaking has been established under the Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990 ("PB Act"). The Prasar Bharati operates a number of channels under the umbrella of 'Doordarshan'. The PB Act prescribes that it shall be the primary duty of Prasar Bharati to conduct public broadcasting services to inform, educate and entertain the public and to ensure a balanced development of broadcasting on TV.

Broadcasting Council

The PB Act also provides for establishment of Broadcasting Council, to receive and adjudicate complaints regarding a programme for contravention of any of the objectives for which the Prasar Bharati has been established. The Broadcasting Council is also to advise the Prasar Bharati in the discharge of its functions. However, the Broadcasting Council has not been constituted till date.

Code of Conduct

Doordarshan has its own code of conduct relating to broadcasting, social objectives and advertisements for production, transmission and telecast of programmes on Doordarshan.

The All India Radio and Doordarshan Broadcasting Code is applicable on the programmes transmitted on Doordarshan and prohibits criticism of friendly countries; attack on religions or communities; obscenity; defamation; incitement to violence; anything against maintenance of law and order; anything amounting to contempt of court; and anything affecting the integrity of the nation etc.

Further, general rules for commercial advertising on Doordarshan have been set-forth in its own code of conduct for advertising, which provides that no advertisement shall be accepted in case it violates the All India Radio and Doordarshan Broadcasting Code.


Certification of Films

The Cinematograph Act, 1952 ("Cinematograph Act") provides for the constitution of the Central Board of Film Certification ("CBFC") and the certification of cinematograph films for public exhibition by the CBFC. In India, cinematograph films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they have been certified by the CBFC.

The certification process of films is carried out by the CBFC in accordance with the provisions of the Cinematograph Act and the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983 ("Cinematograph Rules") and other guidelines issued by the Central Government, from time to time.

The Cinematograph Act provides that the films are to be certified under the following four categories:

  1. Unrestricted Public Exhibition – Certificate 'U'
  2. Restricted to Adults – Certificate 'A'
  3. Unrestricted Public Exhibition but with a word of caution that parental discretion required for children below 12 years of age – Certificate 'UA'
  4. Restricted to any special class of persons – Certificate 'S'

Telecast of films on TV

All TV channels are required to adhere to the Cable Act and the Cable Rules. Since, a film is covered within the ambit of 'programme'; thus, telecast of films on TV shall have to be in accordance with provisions of the Programme Code. The Programme Code provides that no film, film song, film promo, film trailer, music video, albums or their promos shall be carried through the cable service in India unless the same has been certified by the CBFC as suitable for unrestricted public exhibition in India. This restriction is applicable on telecast of productions outside India as well. Thus, films with an 'A' Certificate cannot be telecast on TV without recertification of films after appropriate modifications.


Considering the above it can be understood that the framework for the regulation of content on TV comprises of (i) statutory enactments; (ii) self-regulatory mechanism; and (iii) code of conducts framed by various industry bodies for regulating certain aspects.

The self-regulatory mechanism has been prescribed by various industry bodies and associations and besides prescribing code of conduct, the mechanism also provides for establishing complaint redressal mechanism at different levels.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.