Broadcasting code on anvil -- I

IN Law and Policy | 24/06/2006
The Preamble, proposals pertaining to the scheduling and categorisation of programmes, and definitions.

A Sub-Committee of the Committee for reviewing the Programme and Advertising Codes prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the rules framed under it, and the guidelines for certification of films prescribed under Cinematograph Act, 1952,has come up with a draft broadcasting code and guidelines.   What it amounts to is another effort at regulating what goes on air on television. The initiative has come from industry: FICCI prepared the first draft code.  Implementation is meant to be by the Broadcasting Regulatory Authority of India, if and when it comes.

The Hoot is putting sections of this proposed draft on the site to encourage debate on the subject before it becomes law.



1. A need has been felt to regulate the content going into public domain to ensure conformity with acceptable contemporary community standards and to protect the vulnerable sections from harmful and undesirable content on TV.

This Broadcasting Code (¿Code/Broadcasting Code¿) sets out principles (including definitions), guidelines and practices, which shall guide the Broadcasting Service Provider (BSP) in offering their programming services in India, irrespective of the medium/platform used for broadcasting of the programme.

This code has been drafted to introduce greater specificity and detail with a view to facilitate self regulation by the broadcasting industry and minimize scope for subjective description by regulatory authorities / government. The basic underlining principle of this code is that the responsibility of complying with the provisions of this code vests with the BSP.

2. The principles in this Code are sought to be implemented at the first instance through a self-regulatory mechanism of the BSP, including through the Broadcasting Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI). Regulation by ¿forbearance¿, as present in the telecommunications industry, shall guide the Content Regulator whilst enforcing adherence by the BSP, with the guidelines as provided in this Code. Such self-regulatory mechanism shall be subject to a credible and time bound default/grievance redressal mechanism, which shall function under the guidance of the BRAI.

The BRAI may offer general guidance on the interpretation of the Code. However, any such advice is given on the strict understanding that it will not affect the Content Regulator¿s discretion to judge cases and complaints after transmission and will not affect the exercise of the regulatory responsibilities of the BRAI. The BSP should seek their own legal advice on any compliance issues that may arise.

3. As the Code is based on self-regulation, the Code sets out the factors, which should be taken into account by the BSP when forming a view about the acceptability of any programme. In addition, the BRAI will consider the context of the programming material including:

(a) Type of Programme: The provisions in the Code will vary with the type of programme; the considerations applicable to a drama, for example, are different from those applicable to a documentary. It is important to consider the expectations that the viewers have of a particular programme. Whether or not a particular scene causes offence will depend greatly on whether it is contrary to the expectations of the audience/ viewers of the programme.

(b) Programme Context: Much depends on the context; i.e. where and when the material appears in the particular programme, whether a scene may be justified by the storyline or the expectations created about the individual characters. What is appropriate and acceptable in one context may not be appropriate and acceptable in another.

The meaning of ¿context¿ would mean but not be limited to:

(i) the editorial content of the programme, programmes or series;

(ii) the service on which the programme is broadcast;

(iii) the time of broadcast;

(iv) what other programmes are scheduled before and after the programme or programmes concerned;

(v) the degree of harm or offence likely to be caused by a programme or programmes of a particular description;

(vi) the likely size and composition of the potential audience and likely expectations of the audience;

(vii) the extent to which the nature of the content can be brought to the attention of the potential audience, for example, by giving information.

(c) Time of the Day: The BSP¿s responsibility for careful scheduling of programmes may reduce the risk of offence to a minimum. For example, at certain times, parents will want to be confident that their minors` can watch television unsupervised without the risk of being exposed to unsuitable programmes. At other times, they can accept programmes that are more challenging and can reasonably be expected to exercise greater control over their minors` viewing.

(d)  Target Audience and Language: Material within a programme has to be judged in relation to what that particular audience may reasonably expect and what the language connotes. Special concern should be given to the interests of minors`. The content control over the programmes targeting minors` has to be much more stringent than those targeting the adults.

(e)   Circumstances in which the programmes are shown: Account should be taken of the circumstances in which the programmes are shown such as the nature of a channel or whether the programme is subject to access control, or is only available on demand. Consideration shall also be given to the degree of harm and offence likely to be caused by the inclusion of any particular material in the programme.

(f)    Programme Information: The BSP should ensure that appropriate information such as clear and specific warnings or labeling is available to assist viewers in their choice of television programmes. Such information should be employed where there is likelihood that some viewers may find a programme disturbing.

4.  The Code does not profess to address every case that may arise. The BSP may face a number of individual situations, which are not specifically referred to in the Code. The principles, as outlined in the following sections, should make clear what the Code is designed to achieve and help the Service Provider make the necessary judgments.

5.  This Code is in addition and not in derogation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, the Drugs (Control) Act, 1950, the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, the Prevention of Food & Adulteration Act, 1954, the Prize Competitions Act, 1955, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, 1999, the Copyright Act, 1957, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and such other existing statutes relating to broadcasting of programmes and advertisements. Compliance with the provisions of this Code by the BSP is in addition to the adherence with the provisions of other applicable statutes.



Programmes should always be scheduled with an awareness of the likely audience in mind. Great care and sensitivity should be exercised to avoid shocking or offending the audience.

Each BSP shall categorize their programs based on its theme, language and audio visual presentation and slot it accordingly.


The BSP will ensure that all programme broadcasted are in accordance with scheduling as set out below:

Daily:  Due to lack of consensus, sub-committee has placed two points before the main committee for final decision.

Nature of Programme

Scheduling of programme (option 1)

Scheduling of programme (option 2)

Level 1 : The most sacrosanct and suitable to All (category U)

5: am to 7: 00 pm

5.00 am to 10.00 am

4.00 pm to 7.00 pm

Level 2: Programs which are in the category of PG or U/A. (which minors may watch under parental guidance)

7: 00 pm to 11: 00 pm

10.00 am to 4.00 pm

7.00 pm to 11.00 pm

Level 3: Programmes which are of (category A) adult genre  (subject to edits as mentioned below)

11:00 PM to 5: 00 am

11.00 pm to 5.00 am


For Weekends and Holidays (this will be not required if option 1 above is selected)

Nature of Programme

Scheduling of programme (option 1)

Level 1 : The most sacrosanct and suitable to All (category U)

5: AM to 7: 00 PM

Level 2: Programs which are in the category of PG or U/A. (which minors may watch under parental guidance)

7: 00 pm to 11: 00 pm

Level 3: Programmes which are of (category A) adult genre  (subject to edits as *mentioned below)

11:00 PM to 5: 00 am



"broadcasting service" means  the dissemination of any form of communication like signs, signals, writing, pictures, images and sounds of all kinds by transmission of electro-magnetic waves through space or through cables intended to be received by the general public either directly or indirectly and all its grammatical variations and cognate expressions shall be construed accordingly and includes;

(i)terrestrial television broadcasting service;

(ii)satellite television broadcasting service;

(iii)terrestrial radio service;

(iv)satellite radio service;

(v)direct - to- home service;

(vi)local delivery service including cable service;

such other services as may be notified by the Central Government

"broadcasting service provider (BSP)" means provider of a broadcasting service;

"Programme" in relation to a broadcasting service, means, any television or radio broadcast and includes—

(i) exhibition of films, features, dramas,  news, advertisements and serials through video/ audio cassette recorders or video/audio cassette players

(ii) any audio or visual or audio-visual live performance or presentation and the expression "programming service" shall be construed accordingly;   but does not include any matter that is wholly related to or connected with any private communication.

"categorization" of a programme implies calibration of a program according to theme, language and audio visual depiction suitable for the three categories of U, UA and A programs.

"Category U" means programme suitable for all ages, such programs contains little or no violence, no strong language and no sexual dialogue or situations.

"Category UA" This program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 12 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 12 watch unattended. This program may contain one or more of the following: some violence (V), some sexual situations or nudity (S), some coarse language (L), or suggestive dialogue (D).

"Category A" programs are meant for mature audience only -- These programs are specifically designed to be viewed by adults and therefore may be unsuitable for children under 18 years. This program would contain one or more of the following (subject to the edits as mentioned above): graphic violence (V), sexual situations (S), or crude / indecent language (L). Certain amount of nudity.  

"Pornography" means the depiction of erotic behavior or acts (as in pictures or writing) in a sensational manner and intended to cause sexual excitement and to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.


content with no artistic value which describe or show sexual acts or naked people in a way that is intended to be sexually exciting but would be considered unpleasant or offensive by many people.

"Violence" is defined as any overt depiction of a credible threat of physical force or the actual use of such force intended to physically harm an animate being or group of beings. Violence also includes certain depictions of physically harmful consequences against an animate being or group that occur as a result of unseen violent means.

Provided that programmes which are subject to access control (e.g. through Direct to Home platform) or are available only on demand, the Service Provider may broadcast programmes belonging to an adult genre through the day subject to the edits as set out in the Explanation to the Rule.

Explanation to the Rule

The Service Provider should take care that the time when minors are expected to be viewing the programmes, i.e. between 5 am to 7 pm, the Broadcasting Code should be strictly followed.

For News and Current affairs  (N & C A) programming, such categorization may not always be possible, however it is recommended that BSP¿s should avoid carrying adult programming during the watershed viewing hours. (Please see Chapter on News for further details).  N&CA Channels should carry prominent warnings before any scenes not suitable for universal viewing are required to be telecast in News bulletins during the "U" or "U/A" hours.

There is a progressive decline in the proportion of minors present as television audience through the evening and during the day. The restrictions on the provision of programmes unsuitable on television programmes for minors should be relaxed on a gradual and progressive basis after 7 pm. The assumption is that after 7 pm parents are expected to share responsibility for what their children are permitted to watch on television. Thus, the BSP should take care that broadcasts between 4 pm and 7 pm adhere strictly to the Code.

The following exceptions shall be allowed in time bands after that:

(1) explicit sex scenes and nudity;
(2) full frontal and back nudity;
(3) scenes showing genitalia (animal or human) or overt sexual situations;
(4) pornography

to be contd.

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