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Content Regulating Power of I&B Ministry

Content Regulating


The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has notified a Malayalam news channel that its broadcasting license has been revoked. This decision was based on a Home Ministry order, which had previously refused to grant security clearance to the channel.

Sectors regulated by I&B Ministry Regulate

  • Until 2021, the authority had the ability to oversee and control content in various areas, including TV channels, newspapers, magazines, movies in theaters and on television, and radio. However, it did not have jurisdiction over internet content.
  • In February 2021, new regulations called the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, expanded its authority to encompass internet content as well. This primarily applies to digital news platforms and Over the Top (OTT) platforms, allowing the government to regulate them.

Powers of I&B Ministry

  • The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is responsible for assigning ratings to films that determine their suitability for different audiences when shown in theaters.
  • In reality, the CBFC frequently recommends alterations or edits to a film before granting it a certification. Although its primary role is not censorship, it can refuse to provide a rating unless the filmmaker accepts its proposed changes.
  • Press Council Recommendations: In the world of print media, the government has the power to stop advertising in a publication if it follows the suggestions made by the Press Council of India.
  • IT Rules from Last Year: The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry now has the authority to instruct the banning of websites depending on the type of content they host. This means they can order certain websites to be taken down.

Viewers have a three-step process to address their concerns:

  1. First Step: Contact the channel directly.
  2. Second Step: Reach out to the industry’s self-regulatory body.
  3. Third Step: Contact the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B). If necessary, the Ministry can issue a warning to the channel and involve an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) for further review.

Additionally, the Ministry operates the Electronic Media Monitoring Cell, which watches over channels to ensure they follow the programming and advertising rules outlined in the Cable TV Network Rules, 1994.

If a channel violates these rules, they may lose their licenses for either sending content to a satellite (uplinking) or broadcasting to viewers through an intermediary (downlinking). This is precisely what happened to MediaOne, a Malayalam-language news channel, when the government revoked their licenses.

What kind of content is not allowed?

  • In India, there are no strict laws that dictate what can or cannot be shown in print, electronic media, radio, films, or online streaming platforms.
  • Instead, content on these platforms must adhere to the country’s principles of free speech as outlined in Article 19(1) of the Constitution.
  • While freedom of speech is protected, it’s important to note that there are some “reasonable restrictions” listed within this freedom.
  • These restrictions cover areas such as safeguarding the state’s security, maintaining friendly relationships with foreign nations, preserving public order, and ensuring decency and morality.
  • If any content violates these specified restrictions, legal action can be taken against it.

Role of Other Agencies

The I&B Ministry doesn’t directly control content but relies on input from other government departments and intelligence agencies. For instance, in a recent case, some licenses were revoked because the Home Ministry had not given security clearance, which is a crucial part of the policy. Additionally, the I&B Ministry can use its emergency powers under the new IT Rules to block specific YouTube channels and social media accounts based on intelligence agency information. If someone’s channel or account gets banned, their option would be to seek legal action through the courts.

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