This article is written by Pratyusha Ganesh, a student of Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.
The past few years have seen the emergence of the Media & the Entertainment industry as the fastest growing sector and its performance in the Indian economy. Media Law is used in reference to telecommunications, the print media, the internet and computer technology. The Entertainment industry comprises various fields such as art, music, sports, motion pictures, dance, theatre and many more. The sector constantly continues to grow and evolve. The development of the existing laws has led to the corporatization of the sector.
This article discusses the legal framework governing the entertainment industry, their shortcomings and the relevant laws in the pipeline.
The existing Laws
The content on cinema halls, television and the internet are regulated by legislations such as the Cinematograph Act, 1952, The Cable Television Network Regulation Act, 1995 read with the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, The Information Technology Act, 2000, Information Technology Rules, 2011. There is no particular provision relating to Media & Entertainment laws in particular.
The contents of such creations can be protected under the statutory provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957 and Trademarks Act 1999. And the punishments of the related offences are dealt with under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
As of this moment, India does not have a media regulatory body. Each mass medium or information and communication technology (ICT) has its own regulatory authority, for example, the press is tracked by the Press Council of India, telecommunications is regulated by TRAI (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India), cinema by the CBFC(Central Board for Film Certification), advertising by the ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India), but broadcasting media, though operating under the AIR Code and the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act (1995), do not have similar regulatory or monitoring bodies.
Major issues with the Sector
- There is a constant ongoing battle between the Freedom of Speech & Expression as enumerated in Art 19 and Censorship. Even though there are no specific and rigid laws with respect to the same and this has resulted in a lot of disputes, there needs to be a balance between Freedom of speech and defamation. When it comes to films in a democratic country like India, people have the freedom to decide upon what has to be viewed and creators have the freedom to make whatever they want to. The Board must adhere to the tests laid down in the constitution and have a firm reasoning behind their actions.
- Journalism in India seems to be a dangerous pursuit. There is a rising fear of oppression of reporters and other journalists in India. In the span of 5 years, India’s place in Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index has dropped to 142nd in 2020 from 136th in 2015.
- The current trends in the entertainment and the media sector suggest that content is being made with the sole intention of monetizing it and increasing the TRP’s of a channel or a production house. There is little to no focus on the social sector and political issues.
- The idea behind making a Film is not entertainment or education but just a mere revenue generating activity.
Recent steps taken by the Government and the Legislatures
After the nation-wide lockdown and suspension of production projects caused due to the outbreak of the virus, the Central & the State Governments have prescribed guidelines and timings, the non-adherence of which could lead to the suspension of shooting.
A recent amendment by the Centre amended the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961 has brought OTT (Over-The-Top) platforms and news and current affairs content uploaded or streamed on digital news platforms, under the ambit of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. Future statutes/ amendments must be made in a manner that they seem to be reasonable and should not curtail the power of the media by a significant amount.
Article 19 of the Indian constitution gives all its citizens the freedom of speech & expression and places reasonable restrictions on the same. Therefore, the courts hold the constitutional responsibility to restrict themselves to the provisions mentioned in the Constitution of India.
What does the future look like?
In the past few months, there has been a considerable change in the working of the Indian Entertainment Industry. Even though there are no bills pending or in the pipeline, changes can be expected in the working of the sector.
There has been news about Media houses like Republic Tv reporting just for the sake of TRP’s. If we further focus on Republic TV’s Television Rating Points (TRP) scam case which was undertaken by the Bombay HC and involved the use of words like “Republic Channel, maalak, chaalak and sambandhit vyakti”.
There was also a rapid surge in the OTT platforms. People have access to premium first-hand content from the comfort of their homes.
The recent news of these platforms being brought under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (“MIB”) and regulated by the CBFC has raised eyebrows especially among the millennials due to the interference with creative freedom. The emergence of these platforms has also seen a sudden growth in the small budget & Independent/feature film industry.
Conclusion & Suggestions
According to the FICCI EY report, the Indian Media and Entertainment (M&E) sector reached Rs 1.82 trillion (US$25.7 billion) in 2019, and grew 9% from the previous year. Before COVID disrupted the world, it was said to cross Rs. 2.4 trillion (US$34 billion) by 2022, at a CAGR of 10%.
The entry of corporates has catalysed its growth and established a flow of institutional financing to the industry and have led to better advertising and promotions and better market driven practices among the creatives. It has also led to establishment of international relations as they are willing to collaborate with the Indian production houses which has resulted in larger viewing audiences per project. Films now seem to be starting conversations around various issues of vital societal importance. It is safe to say that the Indian film industry has reached new heights and a lot more creative talent is foreseen.
But the question still remains the same: Are the laws enough?
There are certainly a lot of loopholes in the existing regime but the current practices are better than the ones in the past. We can only wait for more sophisticated practices in the future.
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