"There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches."1

- Ray Douglas Bradbury

Burning books, or rather its 21st century equivalent - banning content (whether justified or otherwise) seems to be the general theme of recent times. There seem to be no dearth of lit matches as we bring to you the tenth edition of the Recap. We say so because this edition of the Recap covers the blocking of documentaries, discussions on banning of television channels, a proposed censorship body for non-film content and the banning of applications among other things.

This edition looks back at the recent developments in the media and gaming sectors over the month of February 2023.


A separate regulatory body for censoring non-film content? - Delhi High Court disagrees

The Delhi High Court ("Delhi HC") recently dismissed a public interest litigation ("PIL") filed against the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting ("MIB"), in which the petitioner had sought the establishment of a regulatory or censor board which would review and censor non-film content such as songs which are released on the internet2.

Dismissing the PIL, the Delhi HC observed that the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 ("Cable TV Act") and the Cinematograph Act, 1952 covers regulation of content in films and television, and does not cover content released on the internet. That said, the Delhi HC also noted that the appointment of a regulatory or censor board for non-film content would require legislative action and that the judiciary has no role to play in the same. Further, the Delhi HC also brought the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code), 2021 ("Intermediary Guidelines") to the attention of the petitioner with specific emphasis on Rule 3 and Rule 4 which lays down the content that 'intermediaries' and 'social media intermediaries' are required to prohibit on their respective platforms. Accordingly, the Delhi HC disagreed with the concern raised by the petitioner that there is no regulatory mechanism for review of non-film songs and other content released on the internet.

You may access the Delhi HC order here.

MIB blocks BBC documentary

The MIB, in exercise of the emergency powers under Rule 16 of the Intermediary Guidelines read with Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 ("IT Act") blocked the documentary of the British Broadcasting Corporation ("BBC") on the 2002 Gujarat communal riots ("Documentary"). Reportedly, the Documentary was aimed at creating apprehensions on the authority of the Supreme Court of India ("Supreme Court") and sowing divisions among various communities. The aforesaid action of the MIB has received wide criticism both within India and abroad.

In light of uproar created by the Documentary, and its subsequent ban thereof, the Supreme Court heard and dismissed a public interest litigation seeking the ban of BBC in India. While dismissing the plea of the petitioner, the Supreme Court observed that the petition was completely misconceived and meritless.

You may access this update as reported by the Indian Express and the Hindustan Times here and here.

MIB rejects the constitution of a media council

The MIB, through an office memorandum dated February 21, 2023, has responded to the recommendations provided by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communication and Information Technology ("Standing Committee") in its report on 'Ethical Standards in Media Coverage.'

One of the recommendations by the Standing Committee is that a unified media council should be constituted to govern all types of media including electronic and digital media. To this recommendation, the MIB responded by stating that the statutory provisions under the Press Council Act, 1978 ("PCI Act"), the Cable TV Act and the IT Act already provide adequate mechanism for governing all forms of media. Further, the MIB stated that given the distinctive nature of each form of media, it is not desirable to have a unified media council, as suggested by the Standing Committee.

You may access the report of the Standing Committee on 'Ethical Standards in Media Coverage' and the replies given by the MIB here.

Advisory on obligation of public service broadcasting

The MIB issued the Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking of Television Channels in India, 2022 ("Guidelines") in November, 2022. The Guidelines deal with various aspects including the process for getting permission for uplinking and downlinking of television channels and news agencies, purchase and use of satellite broadcasting equipment, and obligations for public service broadcasting.

In the context of the obligation for public service broadcasting under paragraph number 35 of the Guidelines, the MIB has issued an advisory dated January 30, 2023 (the "Advisory") wherein the manner in which private satellite television channels can fulfil such obligation has been laid out in detail.

The Guidelines state that companies and limited liability partnerships which have permission for uplinking a channel and its downlinking in India shall undertake public service broadcasting for a minimum period of 30 (thirty) minutes in a day on themes of national importance and social relevance such as education, agriculture and rural development, and science and technology.

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1. Bradbury was an American fiction novelist, the quote is an extract from his 1953 book "Fahrenheit 451."

2. Neha Kapoor & Anr. v. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 2023/ DHC/000558.

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