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Rapid increase in the number of 24-hour General Entertainment Channels (GECs), a process that began in the early 1990s, led to the burgeoning of non-news content on Indian television. Soon, the need to regulate TV content and address programme-related complaints became evident. Being the apex body of broadcasters, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) Board of Directors took upon itself the task of framing a set of self-regulating content Guidelines and establishing an independent complaint redressal mechanism for GECs. The objective was to provide the channels certain guiding principles for programme content, usher in a redressal mechanism for viewer complaints and ensure that programming creativity flourished in a free-speech environment without ad-hoc interventions.
IBF accomplished the goal of formulating and implementing the self-regulatory Guidelines and the complaint redressal system with the establishment of Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) in June 2011. A milestone in the history of Indian television, the initiative signifies the maturity of broadcasters to uphold freedom of speech and expression enshrined as a Fundamental Right in the Indian Constitution. The overwhelming support of IBF member channels to the BCCC mechanism has led to constant evaluation of content in line with changing viewer preferences.
With suitable modifications, the Foundation has adopted the 2008 draft version of Ministry of Information & Broadcasting Self-Regulation Guidelines for Broadcasting Sector. IBF’s ‘Self-Regulatory Content Guidelines for Non-News & Current Affairs Channels’ were framed after wide consultations with more than 40 stakeholders, including the Industry, Government and the Civil Society. The Guidelines set out the principles and practices that guide the Broadcasting Service Provider (BSP) in offering content that conform to the ‘Programme Code’ prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the Rules framed thereunder.
The Guidelines encourage creativity in line with the evolving social milieu and acceptable community standards within which TV channels should operate. The most remarkable feature of the Guidelines is “self-governance”, “self-regulation” and “self-monitoring” by BCCC, which is turning out to be a model for regulators.