2013: Eventful year for Information & Broadcasting ministry

Written by PTI | Updated: Dec 31 2013, 19:20pm hrs
The year 2013 was an eventful one for the Information & Broadcasting ministry which took steps to change the framework for the sector and completed the second phase of cable digitisation drive.

There was also saw a tussle between regulator TRAI and broadcasters over the implementation of a rule which allowed showing of only 12 minutes of ads and promotional content on TV channels. With TRAI and the broadcasters disagreeing on the issue, the matter went for adjudication.

As the year began, the Tamil Nadu government banned Kamal Haasan movie "Vishwaroopam", due to concerns related to law and order. Spurred by states imposing bans on films certified by the censor board, the I&B ministry appointed a committee under Justice (retd) Mukul Mudgal for a review of the Cinematograph Act.

The committee submitted its recommendations, which include that state governments should refrain from passing orders prohibiting the screening of certified films.

During the year, the ministry initiated consultations to amend the Press and Registration of Books and Publications Act and mulled provisions to curb the menace of paid news.

The ministry also initiated the process to establish guidelines for television rating agencies on the basis of TRAI recommendations and is all set to approach the Cabinet for its approval. TRAI also made recommendations to the I&B ministry on other issues including on applying restrictions on the market share in the cable sector to avoid monopolies. The ministry also held consultations and is examining the possibility of increasing FDI limits in media.

While the I&B ministry relooked at legislations and rules, debates and controversies also raged.

Press Council chairman Markandey Katju set up a panel to recommend minimum qualifications for journalists. Many eyebrows were raised when I&B Minister Manish Tewari suggested that the media industry should consider a common exam for journalists on the lines of the bar exam.

Another major controversy that raged was a war of words between BJP leader Arun Jaitley and Katju. Questioning Katju's impartiality, Jaitley said he was harsh in his criticism of non-Congress ruled states, while the former hit back saying the BJP leader twisted facts.

The ministry set up a mechanism which would work as a single window clearance for shooting films in the country. It also organised events to celebrate the centenary of Indian cinema.

For national broadcaster Prasar Bharati, the year was an important one as it operationalised four 24 channels in the heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan while it tied up with the HRD ministry to launch up to 1000 educational channels.

The broadcaster, however, also had to deal with complaints of sexual harassment in AIR and Doordarshan in which had to take action against officials including the suspension of an senior ADG rank officer who had worked in Doordarshan.

A high profile committee headed by technocrat Sam Pitroda was set up in 2013 to review institutional framework of Prasar Bharati including its "relationship" with the government. The Committee's report is expected in the near future.

With general elections due in 2014, the ministry conducted two Bharat Nirman multimedia campaigns to highlight various schemes and programmes of the UPA government. The first phase centered around youth and urban infrastructure schemes.

It also set up a social media cell to take the government's message online. The ministry inaugurated a swanky National Media Centre in the capital.

It also implemented the second phase of cable digitisation drive in 38 cities by March and initiated the process for the the third and the fourth phases.

The year also saw TV rating agency TAM shift from numbers to percentage points after entering into an understanding with broadcasters and advertisers. There had been longstanding disagreements about TAM's rating mechanism.

The much awaited e-auctions for the Phase III expansion of FM radio channels, however, remained in the pipeline in 2013.